Q: Hello, I’ve had a surgeon tell me that it would be more painful for breast reconstruction surgery than the pain that I experienced in the first surgery. Is this true?
A: Hi, Thank you for your question. If your first surgery was having a mastectomy and no breast reconstruction then the comparison of the post-surgery pain depends on several factors. If you use your own tissue to rebuild your breasts then there are two areas of the body that have surgery so there are two areas that may have pain. The breast area and the donor area. In that scenario to have less pain it’s important to have a muscle preserving surgery that uses only your natural fatty tissue to rebuild your breasts not muscles. Breast reconstruction using implants is different because you only have surgery in the breast area and no donor site. The pain should be very similar to the mastectomy surgery. An important factor in this case is whether you have reconstruction with an implant or an expander. An expander is more painful than an implant.
You can see that there are different situations that may impact how much pain you may experience. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid all pain. The good news is the pain associated with breast reconstruction should not be severe enough to prevent any woman from having breast reconstruction. We practice several techniques that help lower surgery pain without only using strong narcotic medicines that have associated side effects. Ask your surgeon to consider preventive measures and pain blocks. None
the less restoring your body to normal after mastectomy should alleviate the long term pain associated with not having breasts.
There are many other factors and I would be glad to answer any other questions. Please let me know.
--James E. Craigie MD