Staged breast reconstruction rebuilds the breast in several stages to avoid complications. Doctors often advise women who need radiation therapy following mastectomy to have staged breast reconstruction, instead of simultaneous reconstruction. When a newly reconstructed breast is exposed to radiation, it can result in altering its cosmetic appearance, making the implant hard, painful, deformed, contracted, or even exposed. It may also cause severe fibrosis or shrinkage of the fatty tissue used to rebuild the breast. In this procedure, your surgeon will insert a tissue expander after mastectomy to keep the breast skin stretched and supple. A few months after you complete radiation therapy, your surgeon will complete the final reconstruction.
For this reconstruction, your surgeon will place a temporary tissue expander at the time of mastectomy. The expander gradually stretches the muscle and skin in preparation for either an implant or flap reconstruction.