Breast Reconstruction Through Breast Implants

What are breast implants? Breast implants are implants made of silicone rubber envelopes and filled with either sterile salt water or silicone gel. The implants are used in the reconstruction of breasts to attain a certain size or shape.

Though there have been other types of implants made over the years, the salt water and silicone gel varieties have been the only ones approved by health authorities as safe for long-term use.

Breast reconstruction

Breast cancer patients, depending on which stage they’re on and other factors, have several options for treatment. According to, most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery to remove breast tumors.

After a partial or complete mastectomy, most women’s concern – aside from a full recovery, of course – is breast reconstruction. It has two kinds: immediate (when it is done at the same time as a mastectomy) and delayed (some time after a mastectomy).

Done right by an experienced reconstructive plastic surgeon, it can lend a more natural shape to the affected area and can relieve some of the psychological stress after such a major change.

Type of implants

Implant Alone

For people who have gone through skin-sparing mastectomy, the muscle on their chest will not have to be stretched. The surgeon will have the ability to put the permanent silicone implant without necessarily using the expandable implants.

Expandable Implant

The expandable breast implants are made of an outer silicone chamber and a hollow inflatable inner chamber. The implants have ports through which saline water can be pumped into the inner part for expansion.

This is used for situations where the skin and muscles need gradual stretching, which happens weeks after the operation when tissues are healed.

Once a week or every two weeks, patients have to come back to their doctor who will then inject saline water into the implant through a valve. Side effects include tightness or itchiness (but no pain) in the affected area, expected to last for a day or two. There might be over-inflation to allow the skin and muscles to stretch.

Once it is completely adjusted to its new shape and size, the implant is drained of some of its saline water until it is symmetrical with the other breast.

Benefits and Limitations

Breast reconstruction is a type of surgery that takes two to six hours followed by six to eight weeks of recovery. The surgery leaves a small scar and does not affect any other part of the body.

It is important to note that implants are not designed to last a lifetime. To make sure that implants have not ruptured or leaked their contents, patients are advised to get MRIs every few years. As with any major surgery, there is a risk for infection as the chest area heals.

With a good doctor and a careful post-operation routine, most patients are back on their feet without assistance in a couple of days.

Author the Author:
Dr. Patrick Hsu, MD is a board certified and highly experienced Plastic Surgeon in Houston. Dr. Hsu received his Medical Degree from UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and completes his residency at Baylor College of Medicine, his fellowship at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson, and an additional year at the renowned M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is currently the chief cosmetics and reconstructive surgeon at Memorial Plastic Surgery.


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