Breast Implants After Radiation?

I only received 9/28 scheduled radiation treatments, but my plastic surgeon still wants to wait 6 months before exchanging my tissue expanders for implants. I could understand if I got the whole treatment but I didn't so I don't understand why I have to wait for 6 months. Is this an ok time frame?

Doctor Answers 5

Breast reconstruction

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These questions should be answered by your plastic surgeon to your satisfaction. You had some radiation and the tissue is injured by any radiation. Most failures of breast reconstruction with implants is due to prior radiation. Your surgeon is trying to protect you from complications and the need for multiple surgery. After radiation the best method of breast reconstruction is flap reconstruction.

Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

Breast reconstruction after radiation

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It is best to wait at least 6 months after completion of radiation therapy to proceed with second stage reconstruction with implants. 
Radiation in essence is a controlled burn and damages tissues impairing healing. This improves with time and most studies have shown that waiting 6 months to a year after completion of therapy improves reconstruction results. 

Sara Yegiyants, MD, FACS
Santa Barbara Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Breast reconstruction after radiation

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Three basic forms of breast reconstruction exist. You can use your own tissue, implants or a combination of the previous two techniques. Your own tissue can be used in the form of the DIEP flap, PAP flap, SGAP flap or fat grafting. Implants can be done in one stage or two stage. Two stage reconstructions are started by placing expanders at the time of mastectomy. Once they expanders are placed they are able to be inflated as determined by wound healing. The final time consists of combining any of the above techniques.

If you are interested in being seen in Austin please give us a call. I know this is a difficult time for you. The majority of my practice is devoted to reconstruction for women with breast cancer or who are BRCA+

Exchangig tissue expanders for implants

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Radiotherapy greatly increases the complication rate of implant based breast reconstruction. If your tissue expander is underneath an LD flap (which is the way I normally use a tissue expander in patients having an immediate reconstruction who are for radiotherapy), I like to wait 6 months the let the swelling and muscle wasting settle down within the flap. If you only have a tissue expander with no flap covering it AND you're had radiotherapy, your surgeon is (and needs) to be cautious. Radiotherapy affects the ability of your skin to heal and risk of implant infection. exposure and loss is significant. I would imagine that waiting 6 months would allow the soft tissues to recover from the initial short term effects of the radiotherapy so that hopefully everything will heal up ok when the definitive implants are placed. I hope this helps.

Waiting for implants following radiation

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No surgeon would try to replace your expander with implants when receiving radiation.  You need to finish your treatment (remember, treat the disease first and foremost) and then you can have your implants.  If you have adverse effects from radiation on your skin, you may have  to even downsize what you would like to get.   And you have a high risk for developing contractures around your implants down the road.

Curtis Wong, MD
Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.