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Most women who have undergone mastectomy where a part or their entire breast is removed consider undergoing Houston breast reconstruction to help reshape their breast. These tissue flap surgeries are divided into various types based on the part of the body the tissue is removed from.

4 types of procedures

The most common form of tissue flap breast reconstruction surgery is TRAM or transverse rectus abdominis muscle flap. Here, the surgeon uses and takes muscle and tissue from the lower belly to the chest region. This procedure not only helps with breast reconstruction, but also reduces the lower belly fat, and thus results in a ‘tummy tuck’.

Latissimus dorsi (LD) flap is a procedure where fat, muscle and skin from the upper back region is pulled to the chest area under skin. If required, an implant may be inserted in the same breast reconstruction surgery for bigger breasts.

DIEP (deep inferior epigastric artery proforator) is a free flap procedure that is similar to TRAM. Here, the surgeon uses only fat and skin from the lower belly region, and not its muscle. The objective of not using the muscle here is to avoid future belly weakness, and like TRAM, could be considered a type of Houston tummy tuck.

The free flap procedure that uses muscle, fat and skin from the buttocks for creating a new breast is called Gluteal free flap. This is the better option for those who don’t have sufficient belly tissue to undergo a DIEP or TRAM.

After surgery

The surgery is conducted under general anesthesia, takes a few hours to complete and you may have to undergo a blood transfusion. On waking up after the surgery, you will find bandages on surgery sites and will have to wear a special bra to keep your bandages in place. The doctor will also place some drainage tubes to collect fluid and prevent its buildup in surgery sites.

After the operation, you will have to stay in the hospital for about 5 days to ensure there is good blood supply to the breast reconstruction skin. To prevent any stifling of shoulders, your physical therapist will show you some exercises while you are at the hospital.

There may be some soreness, swelling and redness in the breast region and the region where the tissue was removed. This may last for several weeks. You may have to take pain medication and antibiotics for a week or two for pain relief and to prevent an infection.

Though you will be able to return to work and your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks’ time, it is advised not to partake of any strenuous activity for several weeks.

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