One in Three Women Undergoing Breast Reconstruction Have Complications

One in Three Women Undergoing Breast Reconstruction Have Complications

“I was surprised the difference was so stark between the autologous reconstruction and the implant, and that the autologous tissue flap complication rate was so high,” said Dr. David H. Song, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research but was a co-author of a commentary on the studies.
But Dr. Song said the research, which followed women for only a few years, did not take into account that many women with implants might need to undergo additional surgery down the line because implants may need to be replaced after 10 years or so.
Some advocates for breast cancer survivors and women who have undergone breast reconstruction were not surprised by the figures. “I have heard lots of horror stories,” said Geri Barish, principal officer of 1 in 9, a breast cancer group on Long Island.
Alise Nacson, a 41-year-old researcher in Washington, said she underwent an eight-hour procedure last year that used tissue, including fat, skin and blood vessels, from her belly to create new breasts after a double mastectomy. But the surgery on her left side failed when the transplanted tissue, called a “‘flap,” was rejected, leaving her with only one reconstructed breast. Now she is facing another operation.
“I lost a flap, which is one of the worst outcomes,” Ms. Nacson said. On the other hand, she said, “I love the breast that I have, and I adore having a flesh breast.”
Donna Lo Nigro, a 43-year-old mother of two from Wading River, N.Y., had a double mastectomy followed immediately by reconstruction with implants in 2015. Within months, she developed a painful infection and abscess in one breast, and eventually had to have both implants replaced. Then a replacement operation failed, and she had to have the second set of implants removed.
In April of 2016, she decided to try using her own tissue for breast reconstruction and had a nearly 12-hour-long procedure, which was successful. “It’s fabulous, and I’ve had no complications,” Ms. Lo Nigro said.

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