For many women, breasts are an important symbol of femininity that helps define their self-confidence and body image. The emotional affects of an altered appearance can be as psychologically damaging as the condition or injury that caused it. Breast reconstruction serves to restore a woman’s body to its original condition after the treatment of breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction using the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous) flap involves using muscle, fat and skin from the abdomen to recreate the breast mound after a mastectomy. This may be performed as a free tissue flap or pedicle tissue flap, depending on each patient’s individual case. The TRAM flap procedure produces a reconstructed breast that looks and feels natural, and also allows patients to benefit from a flatter abdomen as a result. Additional surgery may be required with this method in order to reconstruct a nipple and areola.
Many women undergoing breast reconstruction choose to use tissue expanders for natural-looking breasts that do not require any flaps or grafts. Through a series of appointments, the remaining breast tissue will be gradually expanded to accommodate an implant. The tissue expanders are placed during the initial procedure, which may be performed immediately after the mastectomy, or several months later, depending on the preference of the patient. They are placed under general anesthesia in a one to two hour procedure, and usually remain in place for four to six months.