Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Tissue Flap for Breast Reconstruction: Before Your Surgery

Main Content

Tissue Flap for Breast Reconstruction: Before Your Surgery

What is breast reconstruction with a tissue flap?

Breast reconstruction is a type of surgery. It rebuilds your breast after you've had part or all of a breast removed. It is often done for people who have cancer. It may take more than one surgery to rebuild a breast. But reconstruction is often started during the same surgery that removes the breast.

The breast surgeon who does your mastectomy can refer you to a plastic surgeon with special training in breast reconstruction. You will meet with the plastic surgeon before your mastectomy to discuss the best procedure for you. If you aren't comfortable with the surgeon or the recommended treatment, you can see another surgeon to get a second opinion.

To do a tissue flap surgery, the doctor will use skin, fat, and possibly muscle to rebuild your breast. This may come from your back, your belly, or another part of your body. The nipple and the darker area around it (areola) are most often created later.

You will be asleep during the surgery. The doctor will try to make cuts in places on your body that won't be seen. These cuts are called incisions. Sometimes the doctor uses the same incisions that were used to remove the cancer. The incisions leave scars that fade with time.

After surgery, you will probably go home in 3 to 5 days. Many people can go back to work or their normal routine in 6 to 9 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do.

It's important to know that your breasts will look different after surgery. Your new breast may be more firm, round, or flat than your other breast. It may also not feel the same as the breast that was removed. But over time, you may get some feeling in your new breast. Some people have surgery on the other breast to make their breasts look more alike. If needed, your doctor may take fat cells from another part of your body and inject them into your breast to improve the shape. This is called lipofilling.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.

  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take 4 to 5 hours.
  • You will have bandages on your breast and around your chest and back. You may also have bandages on other places. It depends on where the doctor took tissue to rebuild your breast.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter U400 in the search box to learn more about "Tissue Flap for Breast Reconstruction: Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.