Natural Breast Reconstruction: An Alternative to Implants


SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. This year alone, 276,000 will be told they have it. For many, that means chemo, radiation and surgery. Now doctors have developed a new type of reconstruction surgery that’s totally natural.

Veda Jackson cuts and slices and watches closely what goes into her body these days.

She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She had chemo, radiation and a double mastectomy.

“At one point I was on like 13 different medications and I said, no, no more, no more,” Jackson shared.

When it came time for reconstruction surgery, she said no to implants. Christopher Reid, MD, a plastic surgeon at UC San Diego Health, gave her another option … a natural reconstruction, or DIEP flap.

“It’s all your own tissue. There’s no foreign body,” explained Dr. Reid.

A flap procedure uses a woman’s own tissue to rebuild her breasts.

“We’ll use the abdominal tissue, the fat and the skin that we’d normally throw away in a tummy tuck and rebuild the breast with it,” continued Dr. Reid.

Blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators, as well as the skin and fat connected to them, are removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the chest.

“Once they’re done, they’re done for life as opposed to when you have an implant, you’re going to have to have the implant service throughout the course of your life,” Dr. Reid stated.

But unlike implants, since there are two operation sites for flaps, the chest and the abdomen, the surgery can take several hours longer, and recovery can take one to two weeks more. But Dr. Reid said there is a lower risk of infection.

“You know, if I couldn’t do the DIEP flap then I probably would have ended up just going flat because I had already had enough foreign stuff in me,” said Jackson.

Jackson believes going natural was the way to go for her and is ready to start her new and improved, cancer-free life.

There is also a flap procedure that can take the skin and fat from a person’s thigh to reconstruct the breast. That’s called a pap flap. Right now, the DIEP and pap reconstructed breast does not have any sensation.  Dr. Reid said researchers have started to investigate connecting the nerves in the patient’s chest to the nerves that came out of their abdomen to give them a breast that has sensation.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.


REPORT #2754

BACKGROUND: Breast cancer refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. It usually begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, which are the passages that drain milk. Cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes. If they get into the lymph nodes, they have a pathway into other parts of the body. The stage of breast cancer refers to how far the cancer cells have spread beyond the original tumor. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. It is currently estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers. About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father, whereas, about 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

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NATURAL RECONSTRUCTION: BENEFITS AND RISKS: Autologous fat transfer, or fat grafting, is emerging as a new breast reconstruction technique. Fat tissue is removed from your thighs, belly, and buttocks by liposuction and then processed into liquid and injected into the breast area to recreate the breast. The fat injected into the breast area may be reabsorbed by the body over time and lose some volume. Depending on the size you want your reconstructed breast to be, multiple fat grafting procedures may have to be done over a period of months. Because it doesn’t involve major surgery, many think fat grafting is a safer procedure. However, there have been no large clinical studies done on the procedure. Christopher Reid, MD, UC San Diego Health, says, “For the DIEP flap reconstruction, there are two operative sites, so recovery is a bit longer, more on the order of 1-2 weeks. My patients do not even need to take narcotics because of our advance protocols and techniques. Many implant patients, 15-30%, come back within one to two months from surgery and have to go to OR for removal of infected implant. That is not the case for flaps.”


NEW BREAST REDUCTION TECHNIQUE: Research led by Frank Lau, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, found that long-term breast reduction outcomes can be improved by using techniques that minimally disrupt the lower breast suspensory ligaments. Dr. Lau said, “We offer an improved technique that preserves more of the critical breast anatomy. This study provides an anatomical foundation for why our technique may yield better, longer-lasting results.” About 50% of patients who undergo the most commonly used breast reduction technique, experience pseudoptosis or “bottoming out” as a long-term complication. This occurs when breast tissue drops to the lower portion of the breast independent of nipple position. By measuring the sternal notch-nipple distance and the nipple-inframammary fold distance, the study found a differential rate of stretch. For every 1 cm in upper sensory ligament stretch, the lower sensory ligament length increases by 0.45 cm. “This study is one of the largest breast measurement studies ever performed,” said Lau. “These results help us provide the best breast reduction outcomes to our patients.”


* For More Information, Contact:

Christopher Reid, MD, UC San Diego Health                                                                         Michelle Brubaker, Senior Communications                                                                                                                                      / (858) 249-0416


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