Using your own tissue (flap reconstruction)

This type of reconstruction is more complex than implant reconstruction. It involves transferring a flap of skin, fat and sometimes muscle from another part of your body (the donor site) to your chest wall to create a breast shape. The flap is usually taken from either your back or tummy (abdomen).

Flap reconstruction can be used to create a new breast after a mastectomy, or to replace breast tissue that has been taken away during a lumpectomy (wide local excision).

This type of reconstruction may be suitable if you:

  • have had or need radiotherapy as part of your treatment
  • can’t have an implant or tissue expansion because the chest skin and muscle is too tight, or because a lot of skin and muscle has been removed from the breast
  • have large or droopy breasts and don’t want to make your breasts smaller
  • do not want a breast implant.

Benefits

  • Reconstruction using your own tissue gives a more natural shape and feel to the reconstructed breast.
  • It’s suitable if you have small or large breasts.
  • It can create a breast with a more natural droop.
  • It means you can often avoid the need for an implant.

Limitations

  • The operation will leave a scar on the part of your body that the tissue flap is taken from, and a patch of skin on the reconstructed breast. Because this patch of skin has come from a different part of your body, it may be a different texture and colour from the breast skin.
  • It involves having surgery to another part of your body as well to remove the skin flap.
  • You will have a longer operation, hospital stay and recovery.
  • Reconstructed breasts have less sensation than the original breast (they may feel numb).

Back to Types of breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction using an implant

A breast implant can be put under the chest muscle to create a new breast shape.

Using tissue from your back

A new breast shape can be made from muscle, fat and skin taken from the back. This is called an LD flap.

Using tissue from your tummy area

A new breast shape may be created using a flap of skin, fat and sometimes muscle from your tummy area.

Using tissue from the thighs or buttocks

New breast shapes can be made from fat and skin taken from your buttock or thighs.

Lipomodelling after breast reconstruction

Lipomodelling involves a doctor injecting fat from elsewhere in your body into your reconstructed breast to improve the look and feel of it.

Reconstruction after breast conserving surgery

If a large amount of tissue is removed from your breast, reconstructive surgery can improve how your breasts look.

Surgery to the other breast

Some women have an operation on their natural breast so that the reconstructed and natural breasts look as similar as possible.

Nipple reconstruction

Nipple reconstruction is usually done 4-6 months after breast reconstruction.