How many types of breast reconstruction are there?

My mom had a mastectomy five years ago and would like to have breast reconstruction but she's still traumatized from her medical ordeal and is not thrilled about revisiting her experience. I have told her that it won't be the same at all. It will be a positive experience and I want her to know that she will have choices. It's not like the old days when friends of hers who had mastectomies were left with very little options for a natural looking reconstructed breast. Can you please provide me with a list of the various types of breast reconstruction procedures as well as their pros and cons? I know if I present it in the right way that she'll pursue the surgery and will be happy for having had it done and I will be so happy for her and for having been able to help. Thank you so much.


F, 38, New Jersey

Tags:woman mastectomy pros and cons

In general, the 2 main types are to use your own body tissue (autologous reconstruction) or else to use implants.  Every individual may have slightly different options and expectations based on several different variables - height, weight, chest size, abdominal tissue excess, breast skin/scar quality, other health problems, etc.

Her best bet is to meet with an experienced breast reconstruction surgery so she can at least learn about her specific options.  Best of luck!

You are correct that there are several types of reconstruction options nowadays. The two main options are to use your own tissue (autologous) reconstruction, or use implants.  A third option also exists which entails a combination of the two - a muscle from the back with or without skin is used with an implant.  That is a great option if the first two options are not available.  Autologous reconstruction most commonly involves taking tissue from the lower abdomen during either a TRAM flap (older procedure) or a DIEP flap (new procedure).  Tissue can also be taken from the buttocks, inner thighs, or outer thighs.  To have an autologous reconstruction, you need to have sufficient tissue from the donor site.

Implant reconstruction is also very common.  It can either be done as a single staged "direct to implant" procedure, or more commonly a two staged procedure with a first stage tissue expander placement.  There are many factors on deciding which option is the best one.  I strongly encourage you and your mother to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in breast reconstruction.