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Birmingham, Alabama Breast Surgeon; an introduction to Dr. Eich

Breast Reconstruction surgery for the Birmingham, Anniston, Gadsden, Tuscaloosa, Alabama areas

Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy due to cancer or other disease is an option that is now available to almost all women who desire it. A woman might be reminded of her cancer when she sees the mastectomy scar on her chest instead of a breast in the mirror each morning. Another woman might be bothered by the prosthesis that she has to wear in her bra. Although no reconstructed breast is as nice as a natural breast, surgical techniques and devices developed over the past several years have made it possible for Dr. Eich, a breast reconstructive surgeon in Birmingham, to create a breast that can help a woman regain her self-image and try to put the cancer in the past.

A Breast Surgeon’s Ideal Candidate for Breast Reconstruction

The ideal candidate for breast reconstruction is a healthy woman who has already had, or is about to have, a mastectomy. Although breast reconstruction can be performed in a woman who has to have radiation to her chest, the risk of complications is significantly increased, and the cosmetic outcome is usually not as good as in someone who does not have to undergo radiation.

It is best to visit with Dr. Eich before your initial breast surgery is done, because there are several options for breast reconstruction, and evaluating these reconstruction options before your initial surgery makes for better long-term results.

Types of Breast Reconstruction as Performed by Dr. Eich, Breast Surgeon

There are basically two different types of breast reconstruction:

  • Reconstructing a breast by placing breast implants
  • Using your own body tissue for breast reconstruction

Breast Reconstruction with Breast Implant:

Because a lot of breast skin is removed during the mastectomy, most women do not have enough tissue to accept a full sized breast implant immediately. A tissue expander is a partially deflated implant with a fill port located under the skin that is placed at the initial breast surgery. The tissue expander is then filled over the next few weeks in the breast surgeon’s office. Once the desired size is reached, the tissue expander is replaced with a regular breast implant. Some benefits of this method of breast reconstruction are that the operation is much shorter than other types of breast reconstruction, the hospital stay is much shorter, and there is no painful donor site.

Breast Reconstruction using Body Tissue:

A breast can also be reconstructed using your own tissue in some cases. Although there are many possible donor sites, Dr. Eich prefers to use the abdominal tissue. Technically, this is called a Transverse Rectus Abdominus Musculocutaneous flap, but most people call it a TRAM flap for short. In the person who is very healthy and who has enough tummy fat to use to make a breast mound, this is a good option. This type of breast reconstruction often is more natural appearing than an implant, and it has the benefit of a built in tummy tuck; but, since there is now a donor site (the abdomen), there is additional pain, scarring, and risk for complications at the donor site.

Dr. Eich’s method of Breast Reconstruction: his preferences as a breast surgeon

Dr. Eich performs breast reconstruction under general anesthesia in St Vincent’s East Hospital in Birmingham, which is convenient for most of central Alabama including Anniston, Gadsden, and Tuscaloosa.
If a tissue expander is to be used for breast reconstruction, it will be placed in a pocket under the chest muscle, and the fill port will be located close to the collarbone.
In a TRAM flap reconstruction, an oval section of skin, fat and muscle is taken from the lower half of the abdomen and moved upwards through a tunnel under the skin up to the breast area. The tissue is then formed into a breast mound and sutured in place. The defect in the abdomen where the tissue was removed is then closed and sutured.
The tissue expander operation takes about an hour, and patients can usually go home the day of surgery unless the mastectomy is done at the same time. In that case, patients will usually spend 2 nights in the hospital. The TRAM flap takes about 4-5 hours, and patients usually spend 3-4 nights in the hospital.

Recovery from Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Breast reconstruction surgery recovery depends on the type of reconstruction.

Breast Reconstruction with Breast Implant:

When tissue expanders are used, the discomfort is most noticeable for about three days; by two weeks most people feel much better although they may still be sore.

Breast Reconstruction using Body Tissue:

After a TRAM flap, the discomfort is most noticeable for about three days; by two weeks, most people feel somewhat better although they will still be sore. Bruising after surgery usually lasts two to four weeks, and swelling is mostly gone at six weeks. The contour of the abdomen and reconstructed breast can improve for up to six months. There are usually three to six drains in the breasts and abdomen after surgery; although the drains are usually removed by 2 weeks after surgery, sometimes they are left for up to a month.

For both kinds of breast reconstruction surgery, you may shower as usual after surgery, but you must avoid getting into standing water such as a bath or pool. Breast surgery recovery requires that you wear a compressive garment on the breasts and abdomen continuously for six weeks and avoid heavy lifting or exercise for that time period.

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