Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery is performed to restore function and normal appearance, and correct deformities created by birth defects, trauma, or medical conditions, including cancer. Examples include cleft lip and palate repair, breast reconstruction after lumpectomy or mastectomy for breast cancer and reconstructive surgery after burn injuries. Reconstructive surgery is generally considered medically necessary and is covered by most health insurance plans.

Cancer treatments sometimes damage the function or appearance of a body part. Reconstructive surgery helps repair that damage.

Reconstructive surgery differs from cosmetic surgery because reconstructive surgery is done for a medical reason. Most insurance companies cover reconstructive surgery needed after cancer treatment.

Reconstructive surgery is most often needed after some types of surgery to remove cancer. For example, a person may choose to have reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast. It is a type of treatment for breast cancer. Another example is when a surgeon replaces tissue or nerves removed during treatment for skin cancer .

Other types of reconstructive surgery.

Other types of reconstructive surgeries include:

Skin, tendon and bone grafts. The surgeon transplants healthy skin, tendons, or bone to a new place in or on the body. The transplanted tissue does not have its own blood supply. This means that new blood vessels must grow.

Local flap surgery. This approach uses nearby body tissue to cover the area affected by cancer surgery. The surgeon does not disconnect the tissue from the body or the blood supply. He or she moves it while it is still attached to the nearby area.

Artificial implants. Sometimes an artificial implant replaces a damaged body part. Examples include breast, testicular, and penile implants.

Scar reviews. These surgeries help minimize the appearance of scars from a previous surgery.

Recovery from reconstructive surgery.

Recovery time from reconstructive surgery depends on the type of surgery. Ask your surgeon about these recovery topics before your surgery:

  • Your expected recovery time

  • How to manage any pain or discomfort you may have

  • Limitations to your daily routine and how long they will last

Managing the emotional side effects of reconstructive surgery.

Talk with your reconstructive surgeon about how the surgery will change the way you look and feel. It’s normal for changes in your body to affect your self-image. The following tips can help you manage emotional side effects:

Questions to ask your reconstructive surgeon

  • Are you board certified? Is reconstructive or plastic surgery your specialty?

  • How many reconstructive or plastic surgeries of this type are performed in a year?

  • What reconstructive surgery options do I have?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type?

  • When can I have reconstructive surgery?

  • What are the costs involved with this type of surgery? What does my insurance cover?

  • How long will the surgery take?

  • How should I prepare for surgery?

  • Is this an inpatient or outpatient surgery? If it’s an inpatient surgery, how long will I be in the hospital?

  • What are the possible complications for this type of surgery?

  • How long will it take me to recover? When can I resume my normal activities, including exercise?

  • Will I have stitches, staples and/or bandages?

  • Will I have a scar or other permanent effects from the surgery?

  • What kind of results can I expect?

  • Can I see photos of similar surgeries?

  • What changes can I expect in the reconstructed area over time?

  • Will I need to have another surgery in the future?

  • Do I need follow-up appointments or tests after reconstructive surgery?

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