Typical Breast Reconstruction Timelines After Mastectomy

Step 1 - Initial Consultation

If you believe that you’re ready for breast reconstruction after a breast cancer diagnosis, the first step will be to sit down for a consultation with one of our reconstructive surgeons at Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. The initial consultation typically takes around an hour and includes the following:

  • Review of patient history and discussing all reconstruction options
  • Physical examination
  • Clinical photography
  • Discussing when to schedule surgery
  • Reviewing instruction packets
  • Determining which lab tests will be needed

Immediate reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy can be scheduled within one to three weeks if the following criteria are met:

  • Patient was recently diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Patient needs a mastectomy as soon as possible
  • Coordinated with our oncological breast surgeons

However, delayed reconstruction will usually be scheduled three to four months after the initial consultation in the following situations:

  • Patient has previously had a mastectomy
  • Patient has a congenital chest wall deformity (for example, Poland's syndrome)
  • Patient has suffered breast implant failure from a previous reconstruction
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Step 2 - Pre-Op Visit (May Be Combined With Initial Consultation in Some Cases)

Typically, the next step after the initial consultation will be a pre-op visit, which will include the following:

  • Review of consent forms if not completed at initial consultation
  • Review of CT-A scan results, if applicable
  • Review of the plan and discussion of remaining concerns
  • In some cases, application of operative markings

You and your surgeon will also review preoperative instructions, including the following:

  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight
  • When to arrive and where to check in
  • Instructions for family members

Step 3 - First Stage Reconstruction

After the preoperative visit, the next step in the breast reconstruction process will be the first stage of reconstruction. Living tissue reconstruction requires a three-day in-patient hospital stay. All other reconstructive procedures are normally outpatient (returning home the same day). After this procedure, you will have your first postoperative visit:

  • Normally one week after surgery
  • Usually 15 to 30 minutes
  • Checking reconstructive sites
  • Removal of drains, if ready
  • Instructions for wound care and activity
  • Reviewing care instructions

After that, you will have scheduled follow-up visits with your doctor:

  • Usually 15 to 30 minutes
  • Checking reconstructive sites
  • Suture removal, if indicated
  • Expanding of tissue expander, if applicable
  • Initiation of plan for second stage of reconstruction, if necessary
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Step 4 - Second Stage Reconstruction (When Necessary)

For some breast reconstruction patients, a second stage of reconstruction will be necessary. This procedure will usually be at least 12 weeks after the first stage, and it may be delayed until the completion of chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Before the procedure, you’ll have a pre-op visit:

  • Usually about 30 minutes
  • Discussion of patient goals and concerns, refining treatment plan
  • In some cases, application of pre-surgical markings
  • Clinical photography
  • Review of consent forms
  • Review of instructions, time to arrive, and directions to check in at hospital

This will be followed by an outpatient hospital procedure, which may include the following:

  • Nipple reconstruction
  • Breast contouring to refine shape
  • Donor site scar revision or contouring, if needed
  • Reduction, augmentation, or breast lift to opposite side if needed for symmetry

Step 5 - In-Office Nipple Tattooing

Once your main reconstruction procedures have been completed, the next step is typically an appointment for in-office nipple tattooing:

  • At least eight weeks after final reconstructive surgery
  • Treatment time for initial tattooing is two hours; touch-up appointments are one hour and 15 minutes
  • Review of care instructions
  • Scheduling follow-up appointment
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Step 6 - Follow-Up Appointment

The final step of your breast reconstruction procedure will be a follow-up appointment with your surgeon:

  • About four to six weeks after nipple tattooing
  • Touch-up procedure is usually indicated
  • Clinical photography
  • Discussion of scheduling annual follow-up visits, if applicable

Schedule Your Consultation at Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Today

At Austin Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, we understand how daunting the breast reconstruction process can seem; especially when you’re already dealing with the many physical, mental, and emotional challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis. That’s why our team goes the extra mile to provide constant support and guidance for every one of our breast reconstruction patients. We will be with you every step of the way to make the process as easy and stress-free for you and your family as possible. If you’d like to learn more about the breast reconstruction process or schedule your initial consultation, simply contact us today.

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