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Breast reconstruction using implants

Breast reconstruction using implants involves rebuilding a breast shape by inserting a breast implant under the skin and muscle on the chest.

Types of breast implant

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Breast implants are made from a silicone envelope filled with either silicone (a soft jelly-like substance) or saline (salty water). There are a variety of breast implants, each of which look, feel and move slightly differently. They come in different shapes (round or contoured), sizes and textures (smooth or textured).

In general, silicone implants look, feel and move more naturally than saline implants. A disadvantage of saline implants is that some women end up with a rippled effect that can be felt under their skin. Occasionally the ripples can be seen as wrinkled skin.

Contoured implants give a more natural ‘pear’ shape than round implants. Textured implants can help stop implants moving under the skin. The texturing is so fine that it usually cannot be seen or felt. A complication called capsular contracture is less likely with textured implants.

"I didn't want a TRAM flap or latissimus dorsi because my body is my tool so to sort of interfere with muscles that I use while I'm working and exercising was not really an option."

Safety of breast implants

In the past, concern has been raised about the safety of silicone implants because of the side effects if the implant ruptures and silicone leaks out. However, research
over the last 15 years suggests silicone implants are safe. A newer type of silicone implant (cohesive gel implant) contains a semi-solid filling that has a lower risk of
leakage if the implant breaks or ruptures.

If a saline implant ruptures, the salty water that leaks out is not harmful. However, further surgery will be needed to remove and replace the ruptured implant.

Cancer Australia has also produced a summary of the evidence on implants and breast cancer risk.

More information about the safety of implants is available from the TGA.

Implant breast reconstruction using a tissue expander

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Side view of breast area with unfilled tissue expander in place.

  • A tissue expander–unfilled
  • B port
  • C catheter
  • D syringe
  • E ribs
  • F pectoralis major muscle
  • G Other muscles of the chest wall
 

expander-diagram-2.jpg

Side view of breast area with filled tissue expander in place labels.

  • A tissue expander–filled
  • B port
  • C catheter
  • D syringe
  • E ribs
  • F pectoralis major muscle
  • G Other muscles of the chest wall (3 lines to one letter)

Figs. 8.6, 8.7, 8.9, 8.10, 8.13, 8.14 (pp.58-62) from Breast Cancer: The Facts by C. Saunders & S. Jassal (2009), By permission of Oxford University Press, global.oup.com

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