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Breast Reconstruction with Implants

Your surgeon can help you decide whether to have reconstructive surgery. You will be advised to wait if now is not the best time for you.

Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy procedure, or it can be delayed until a later time. One kind of reconstruction is the breast implant. A breast implant is a fluid-filled shell inserted during surgery to reform the shape of the breast.


Inserting a tissue expander

Usually the breast is prepared for a breast implant with a tissue expander, an empty implant shell that is inserted into the breast during surgery. The tissue expander stretches the breast skin and muscle to make room for a breast implant.

Cutaway view of breast implant

The tissue expander can be inserted using the same incision as the mastectomy. About once a week, fluid is injected into the tissue expander through a metal port. When the muscle and skin are stretched enough, the expander is replaced with an implant.

Placing the Implant

Most breast implants are shells filled with fluid. To insert the implant, a small incision is made, often through the mastectomy scar. The implant is placed under your chest muscle. Recovery may take 3–6 weeks. You may have surgery later to create a nipple and an areola. Surgery may also be needed to match your remaining breast to the reconstructed one. Expect the reconstructed breast to be firmer than your normal breast.

Cutaway view of breast implant



Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/7/2013
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