Steps involved in breast reconstruction

For most patients, breast reconstruction will require two to three surgical procedures.

The first and most involved procedure is the primary reconstruction of the breast mound or breast shape, which may be done in any of several ways. The second procedure usually consists of additional work on the breast shape or placing the permanent implant. Any procedures to make the opposite breast more similar to the reconstructed breast take place at this time. The final step is usually reconstructing the nipple. The location of the nipple is critical to how the breast looks, so placing it is reserved for after all other reconstructive stages have been completed.


Although your specific timetable will differ, a general timetable looks as follows:

Initial Consultation

Your plastic surgeon will meet with you to assess your personal situation. Together you’ll decide on the appropriate procedure for you.

Secondary Consultation

You’ll come back for a follow-up consultation to answer any additional questions and review any particular health concerns brought up previously. Your doctor will create a general timeframe for your surgery.

Pre-operative Labs

You’ll arrange necessary labs or testing prior to surgery.

First Stage Surgery

If you’re undergoing own tissue flap reconstruction, you’ll be in the hospital for approximately 4 to 7 days. The first 48 hours are the most crucial for flap monitoring. If you’re have tissue expansion/implant reconstruction, you will be in the hospital for 1 to 2 days.

Post Operative Appointment

A week after surgery you’ll come back to the clinic for your plastic surgeon to assess your recovery and flap condition.

Follow Up Appointments

You’ll have your first post-operative appointment one week after your surgery, with follow-up appointment two weeks and four weeks after that. These are followed by monthly appointments to check your progress.

Resuming Normal Activities

Generally you can return to very light work around four weeks after the surgery, and may take baths after one month. Details for specific activities are listed in post-op recovery.

Implant Exchange

For tissue expansion/implant reconstruction, you’ll need to have the expanders replaced with the actual implant 6 to 12 months after initial surgery.

Second Stage Symmetry Surgery

If work is required to create a more symmetrical appearance, your plastic surgeon will decide the appropriate timing.

Nipple Reconstruction

If you’ve had a mastectomy where the nipple wasn’t left intact, your surgeon will reconstruct one for you.

Nipple Tattooing

For a fully pleasing aesthetic, tattooing of the nipple completes your cosmetic appearance. This can be done 6 weeks after nipple reconstruction.

Final Follow Up Appointment

A final check up is necessary one year after the surgery, after which you’ll be fully released from your plastic surgeon’s care.