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What to Expect: Delayed Reconstruction

Delayed breast reconstruction surgery may begin weeks, months or even years after your mastectomy. You and your care team will determine what’s best for your situation.

If you choose delayed reconstruction, the two-stage process is the only procedural option. The skin over your chest changes shape over time and needs an expander first to accommodate a breast implant.


Two-Stage Breast Reconstruction

This combination of procedures gradually expands the skin on your chest into the shape of a breast and creates a pocket for the breast implant. The most common approach includes a tissue expander followed by placement of a breast implant – allowing for the most flexibility in shaping the breast.

1st stage delayed breast reconstruction

First Stage

Your surgeon will surgically insert a tissue expander, and slowly expand the space over time for an implant. Typically, you'll meet with your plastic surgeon on a regular basis to fill the expander with sterile saline to gradually stretch the skin.

2nd stage delayed breast reconstruction

Second Stage

Once the space reaches the right size and the tissue has healed (several months later), your surgeon will perform a second surgery to remove the tissue expander and replace it with the breast implant. If a mastectomy was only performed on one breast, you might choose to have the other breast augmented to maintain symmetry.