What are the risks of breast reconstruction?
The decision to have breast reconstruction surgery is extremely personal. You'll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.
Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the relevant risks associated with your specific surgery. You may be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedures you will undergo and any risks or potential complications. The decision to pursue breast reconstruction does not change your risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The possible risks of breast reconstruction include, but are not limited to, bleeding, infection, poor healing of incisions and anesthesia risks. Patients should also be aware of the following:
- Flap surgery includes the risk of partial or complete loss of the flap and a loss of sensation at both the donor and reconstruction site.
- Breast implants carry the risk of breast firmness (capsular contracture) and implant rupture.
- The development of a type of cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), primarily associated with textured implants.
- The development of other very rare types of cancers in the capsule around breast implants, one of which is called breast implant-associated squamous cell carcinoma (BIA-SCC).
- Breast implants may be associated with systemic symptoms commonly referred to as breast implant illness (BII), which can include fatigue, "brain fog," muscle or joint pain and rash.
- Acellular dermal matrix products may have a higher chance for complications or problems.
You should feel free to ask any questions to help you understand the risks.
Breast implant safety
FDA-approved breast implants undergo extensive testing to demonstrate reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness. The vast majority of people with breast implants experience no serious complications. However, there are risks associated with breast implants, including breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), breast implant-associated squamous cell carcinoma (BIA-SCC) or other very rare cancers in the breast implant capsule and systemic symptoms commonly referred to as breast implant illness (BII) that some patients attribute to their implants, which can include fatigue, "brain fog," muscle or joint pain and rash. In the event any complication develops, patients should consult a board-certified plastic surgeon to address it in a timely manner. Likewise, if a patient desires to have breast implants removed – for any reason – she should consult her plastic surgeon.
A safe surgical setting
Surgery for your breast reconstruction is most often performed in a hospital setting, possibly including a short hospital stay, and your doctor will likely use general anesthesia. Some follow-up procedures may be performed on an outpatient basis, and local anesthesia with sedation may be used. These decisions will be based on the requirements of your specific procedure and in consideration of your preferences and your doctor's best judgment.