Breast Reconstruction Options: Flap vs. Implants

Woman covering breastFacing breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy can be a very emotional process, and patients can often feel confused and overwhelmed by the different options for breast reconstruction. It’s important to remember that there is no one best method of reconstruction, and there are pros and cons to each approach. Here’s a closer look into the facts behind common breast reconstruction methods to help you understand the primary differences.

Flap-Based Reconstruction

Tissue flap reconstruction is a method of rebuilding the breast using skin, fat and muscle from a donor area of the patient’s own body. With the flap method, much of the reconstruction can often be accomplished at the same time as the mastectomy, although follow-up procedures will likely be necessary in order to achieve a properly positioned, natural-looking breast or to complete nipple reconstruction.

Implant-Based Reconstruction

Using a breast implant to recreate the breast is a fairly simple procedure that requires less surgery time and a shorter recovery than flap-based procedures. Implant-based breast reconstruction can sometimes be entirely performed at the time of the mastectomy. In other cases, only the initial step of placing temporary tissue expanders can take place. Tissue expanders are used to create enough space in the breast pocket for the final implant,.

A Combined Approach

Another option is to combine the best of both reconstruction methods in order to create the new breast. In this combined approach, a smaller implant supplies the primary foundation while muscle and tissue add another layer of coverage for a very natural final result. This method eliminates the need for tissue expanders while at the same time limiting the amount of additional tissue and muscle that need to be donated from elsewhere on the body.