We’ve started trying to restore sensation for women who are undergoing breast reconstruction using their own (autologous) tissue. I most commonly do this during DIEP flap reconstruction, which is when I take skin and fat from the abdomen to create new breasts. I form the abdominal tissue into a flap and move it to the chest. Then, I hook up the arteries and veins in the flap with those in the chest to give life to the tissue. At the same time, we can actually reconnect the nerves too.
Dr. Jules Walters, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New Orleans, was not satisfied that his breast reconstruction patients had to deal with a lifetime of numb breasts. Wanting to find a solution, he began incorporating ReSensationSM into free flap breast reconstruction. “I want to offer women the chance to not just have reconstructed breasts, but to be able to look in the mirror and feel beautiful. I want them to feel confident and to not be constantly reminded of breast cancer. With ReSensation, they can not only look good but potentially have the feeling in their breasts restored.”
After a mastectomy, many women feel relieved to be cancer-free and look forward to focusing on their future and simply enjoying life. But with this new chapter comes more decisions, including whether to have breast reconstruction.
By having a full understanding of the many breast reconstruction options available, and choosing a plastic surgeon who offers the latest breast reconstruction techniques, women can empower themselves to make decisions that can lead to the best possible outcomes.1
With over 20 years of experience as a plastic surgeon, Dr. Kamran Khoobehi has distinguished himself with his aesthetic and reconstructive results – including performing an eyelid reattachment surgery. To save the sight of a young woman injured by a dog bite, Khoobehi operated for six hours under magnification to reconnect the delicate skin, connective tissue, and network of tiny blood vessels of the eyelid. Today, Dr. Khoobehi applies his expertise in microsurgery to breast reconstructive surgery with ReSensationSM. Utilizing this technique, Dr. Khoobehi uses a nerve graft to potentially return sensation to reconstructed breasts in women undergoing breast reconstruction with natural tissue post mastectomy.
Reconstruction has been limited to size, shape, softness and symmetry,” said AxoGen Medical Director Dr. Ivica Ducic. “I believe reconstruction should be expanded to include restoring sensation.” Dr. Ducic shared his thoughts on ReSensation, a surgical technique designed to restore sensation after a mastectomy, and how it may transform breast reconstruction outcomes for women.
Women choose to have a mastectomy as a life-saving measure, but they are often dismayed to find their breasts are numb after the procedure. The loss of breast sensation is a common and sometimes devastating side effect of breast removal surgery. For some women, the lack of sensation can act as a roadblock that prevents them from fully recovering mentally and emotionally from their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.1
Tara lived for a decade with the implants. Around the 10-year mark, Tara noticed her breasts starting to look uneven. After years of being the same size, one breast looked a bit larger than the other. To be on the safe side, she went to see Dr. Chen. Tara was surprised when an MRI showed one of her implants had ruptured. Dr. Chen recommended immediate removal of the implants followed by autologous reconstruction.
After a mastectomy, it’s common for women to experience a loss of sensation in the chest area. The reason for the loss of feeling is that during the mastectomy, surgeons cut the sensory nerves when they remove the breast tissue.
For many women, the changes in sensation are permanent, persisting even after reconstruction. While breast reconstruction can restore the shape, size, symmetry and softness of breasts – known as the four “S’s” – reconstruction doesn’t typically focus on the fifth “S,” sensation.
Research shows the number of women choosing reconstruction has risen significantly over the past several decades. In 1998, 46% of women with breast cancer received reconstruction, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that analyzed medical claims from over 20,000 women with employer-sponsored health insurance.1 By 2007, that number had risen to 63%. According to the study, women who have had a bilateral (double) mastectomy were the most likely to seek reconstruction, with three-quarters choosing to restore their breasts.
While choosing to have a mastectomy is a difficult decision, it’s followed by many other questions. Will you have breast reconstruction? What type will you have? What is recovery like?
As you weigh your reconstruction options, one factor to consider is whether you want to explore the possibility of having sensation restored to your breasts as part of your reconstructive surgery. Women often experience permanent numbness in their breasts post-mastectomy because the nerves in the chest area are severed during the procedure. However, women who choose free flap (autologous) breast reconstruction using their body’s own tissue now have the opportunity to potentially restore sensation with an advanced technique called ReSensation.