Driven by Hope: Our Breast Reconstruction Mission
Breast Reconstruction on the East Coast—But a Worldwide Mission
At East Coast Advanced Plastic Surgery, breast reconstruction is one of our primary missions. This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to aesthetic plastic surgery—not by any means. But breast reconstruction done well takes a certain commitment and certain degree of specialization. This is, in part, because a good percentage of breast reconstruction techniques involve microsurgery in order to transport blood vessels. But it’s also because breast reconstruction can be a particularly sensitive procedure coming, as it often does, during a chaotic, trying time in a woman’s life. For many patients, breast reconstruction is a way to make the best out of a bad situation—but it’s also a way to reclaim a normal life and a sense of control over the future.
So we take pride in making breast reconstruction a big part of our New Jersey-based practice. We serve not only those looking for breast reconstruction in New Jersey and New York, but we also have patients come in from all across the country. We take pride in giving each and every one of those patients personalized care, helping them reach their unique desired results in a way that works for their situation.
Of course, where you get your breast reconstruction performed might be among the easiest decisions you make. We say, mostly facetiously, but with a grain of truth. Breast reconstruction can be a complex procedure, and because every woman’s body is different, there are a variety of options available that seek to honor that individuality. You should go over all of these options (and more) with your surgeons before deciding on the best course of action, however, the more knowledge you have about what’s out there (and about your own body), the better position you’ll be in when it comes to making a decision.
Natural or Artificial Reconstruction
Among the first choices you’ll have to make on your reconstructive journey is whether you want to use natural or artificial means to reconstruct the breast. By artificial, we mean something like an implant (saline, silicone, etc), and by natural, we mean tissue donated from elsewhere on your body. There are strengths and weaknesses to either material, so you’ll have to decide (with the help of your surgeon) how those strengths and weaknesses line up with your own desired outcomes.
An artificial implant, such as a saline or silicone implant, is not all dissimilar from the devices used in breast augmentation surgeries. Silicone is a longer-lasting, safer option that looks quite natural. The advantage of an artificial implant is the ease of the operation—there’s no donor material, so the scarring and recovery period are significantly reduced. The downside is that it won’t feel quite as natural as an autologous (or, an implant created from your own tissue) option. The other downside is that even long-lasting silicone implants have a shelf life: you might need to have the implant removed in 15-20 years (or fewer, if the implant ruptures).
Still, for some women, this is the right move, if for no other reason than it moves the finish line a little bit closer and allows normal life to resume just a bit sooner.
When it comes to autologous options, the pros and cons are basically flipped. A breast reconstructed from your own tissues will be a living, breathing part of your body—and there’s really no way for an artificial implant to compete with that kind of natural feeling. However, breast reconstruction using your own tissue will require just that: your own tissue. You and your surgeon will select an appropriate donor site from elsewhere on the body (usually one that has a bit of extra muscle and tissue—see below for more details). This means that any breast reconstruction option using a donor site will essentially be a more complex procedure, with more incisions lines and, thus, more scars and a slightly longer recovery.
That said, many of our worldwide and many of our more local New Jersey breast reconstruction patients report significant satisfaction with this option, largely because, once the recovery is over, the reconstructed breast looks and feels so natural.
It’s also worth mentioning that, in some cases, a combination of these two approaches will be the best way to get your desired results. They are certainly not mutually exclusive. Your satisfaction will, of course, depend on your desired results. And to get a good handle on that, you should talk out what you want with your doctors and your plastic surgeon.
Selecting the Donor Site
If you have chosen to steer your breast reconstruction down the autologous route, you and your surgeon will need to spend some time selecting a proper donor site. Much of this will depend on your overall health and your anatomy. When selecting donor material, there are two basic criteria that your surgeon will look for: first, will the tissue in question perform adequately (that is, will it look and feel like a natural breast, within reason)? Second, can you live a full, healthy, and normal life without the donor material in its current location? Because the breast is composed largely of mostly of fat and other tissues the donor material will need to match that composition as much as possible.
The most common donor site is the abdomen, in a procedure surgeons refer to as DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric artery Perforator) Flap procedure. A DIEP Flap performed in a Hoboken, Ridgewood, or Englewood breast reconstruction hospital setting looks much the same as it does across the country: tissue is taken from the abdomen and used to create a natural-looking breast. A DIEP flap procedure is usually desirable because it leaves the abdominal muscles intact. This means there’s no loss of movement and minimal risk of hernias or other abdominal wall weakness. DIEP Flap procedures are usually the ideal procedure, as it avoids sacrificing muscle, making it the most common form of autologous breast reconstruction. But that doesn’t mean it’s viable for every woman’s needs.
Indeed, there are donor sites available in the upper back, the lower back, and even, to some degree, the arms and legs. What you decide on for your own breast reconstruction procedure will depend largely upon you as an individual: what you want the end result to look like and what your body gives you to work with. After all, this procedure is designed to work in harmony with your body.
If you’re curious about breast reconstruction options, please take some time to find more information in the breast reconstruction section of our website, where we offer many details on the various procedures currently available.
Generally the last phase of the breast reconstruction journey is a step called Nipple Reconstruction. During your breast reconstruction, your surgeon will general create a nipple-like structure using some of the excess tissue from the donor site. However, the nipple is difficult to accurately reconstruct this way. Often, a tattoo artist is brought in by the surgery team, in order to create the illusion of detail—in order to make the nipple look more lifelike.
Despite our emphasis on Hoboken, Englewood, and Ridgewood plastic surgery, at East Coast Advanced Surgery, we employ the services of nationally-renowned nipple tattoo artist Renee Maschinot. She flies in from Florida to perform Nipple Reconstruction in New Jersey at one of our five locations, and our patients are generally quite pleased with the results, which lend life and completeness to the finished, reconstructed breast.
Breast Reconstruction is a Personal Journey We’re Committed To
We’re spending so much time on breast reconstruction with this blog because it’s a mission we believe in—so much so that we’ve devoted a large portion of our website to tracking the happenings in the breast reconstruction world. We envision the East Coast Advanced Plastic Surgery website as a place where you can share your breast reconstruction stories—for your benefit and for the benefit of the broader community.
We find these stories to be particularly uplifting because, in a way, they’re a symbol of victory. Even after you’ve beaten breast cancer, there’s always a chance that it could return, even if you’ve had a double mastectomy. But breast reconstruction procedures show a commitment to resuming your life, to living that life as fully, as normally, as powerfully as possible. Triumphant over adversity in those moments of chaos and trauma—that’s what we see in our patients, day after day, as they continue to battle not only for their bodies but for their identity.
That we can help, even in a small way, is one the passions that drives us. So we invite you to participate in that drive—to give hope where you can, encouragement where it’s needed, and information to all. We look forward to continuing to build a community with you.