Implant based reconstruction is the most popular type of breast reconstruction in the United States. For many women considering their options for breast reconstruction, implant based reconstruction can be an excellent choice.
When it comes to selecting the right implant, there are two primary options: saline filled and silicone gel filled. Saline implants are more commonly used and they consist of a silicone shell filled with a salt water solution. Silicone implants are filled with either liquid or a silicone gel throughout and have a softer feel and texture that is considered to be closer to natural breast tissue.
With saline implants, rupture is more immediately noticeable. Both options are safe, effective, long-term solutions approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Potter will work with you to determine the most suitable breast implant solution for your body type and lifestyle circumstances.
Many women favor implant based reconstruction for its reduced recovery and operation time. Because there is no tissue being taken from other parts of the body, there are no additional scars or risks of developing complications at a secondary surgical site. Like DIEP flap reconstruction, implant based reconstruction can often be performed alongside a mastectomy.
There are several disadvantages to implant based breast reconstruction vs. DIEP flap reconstruction. First, because implants are not natural body tissue, they won’t look or feel as natural compared to DIEP flap reconstruction. DIEP flap reconstruction also allows a breast to change size and shape naturally with weight changes, whereas an implant based reconstruction will not. Additionally, since DIEP flap reconstruction pulls tissue from your stomach, patients receive the added benefit of a flatter, tighter stomach, as they would after a standard tummy tuck.
Finally, while the initial surgery and recovery time for implant based reconstruction is shorter, it often requires frequent office visits to allow for tissue expansion, and it is common for implants to be removed or replaced periodically. Additionally, women who select implant based reconstruction often times must surgically alter their healthy breast to achieve symmetry. DIEP flap reconstruction is permanent.
Dr. Potter will work with patients individually to determine which option is right for them.
Implant based reconstruction is a good solution for women who want to avoid incisions in other parts of their body. Implant surgery is also a fitting option for women who prefer not to undergo a more lengthy flap surgery. Because implant surgery is procedurally less demanding, hospital stays and recovery time are minimal. Therefore, women who are not able physically or personally to undergo a DIEP flap surgery may opt for implant based reconstruction. Lastly, women with lower body fat may not be able to undergo DIEP flap surgery, leaving implant reconstruction surgery as their primary option.
Women who will be undergoing radiation therapy are generally not advised to opt for implant based reconstruction. Additionally, women who are not willing to alter their healthy breast should consider DIEP flap surgery as an alternative as since DIEP flaps provide the best symmetry with a natural breast. Implant surgery normally requires operating on both breasts to achieve symmetry.
Implant based reconstruction, however, is not permanent, and implants must eventually be removed or replaced. Since implants are foreign material without blood supply, there are additional risks involved such as infection, capsular contracture and leaks or ruptures. Furthermore, for women who receive radiation therapy, the risks of implant based breast reconstruction are heightened.
For women who have whole breast radiation during cancer treatment, the overall loss rate of implant reconstructions can be as high as 17 percent. For many women, this rate will be too high. Although each reconstruction is different, Dr. Potter prefers using a DIEP flap reconstruction when a woman’s cancer treatment will involve whole breast radiation or when a woman has had breast radiation in the past.