I'm 6 months post-op from my exchange surgery, and thought I'd explain it for those of you who don't know much about the breast reconstruction process.
After my double mastectomy in May of 2014 my plastic surgeon placed tissue expanders into pockets made in both sides of my chest wall. For some patients the expander remains unfilled for a time, allowing for the healing process to take place. In my case, my doc filled mine a bit right there on the operating table, so I awoke with "chest bumps" in place. Over the course of 6 months I had doc appointments every two-three weeks so my expanders could get filled and stretch me little by little. Expanders are filled by sticking a needle through my skin into the port in the expander. Saline is pushed through a syringe and through the port to expand the chest. Yes, it's uncomfortable, in fact, my chest was always uncomfortable for a few days afterward as the tissue stretched to accommodate the larger sized expander. Once we got to the size that we felt was proportional to my frame, my doc overfilled me a bit and then we let them "rest" for about three months before surgery, to establish the integrity of the pocket and to help provide a more natural hang of my breasts post-exchange. The expanders were hard, heavy, and brick-like. Not at all like natural breasts. That's where the implant exchange come in.
The exchange surgery was a bit shorter in duration than my mastectomy and definitely less invasive. My plastic surgeon opened up my incisions again, drained the expanders, and pulled them out. He cleaned out the pockets in my chest wall and then inserted two "gummy bears," or textured silicone breast implants, one on each side, and stitched me up.
Two drains poked out of my body, one from each breast, to collect all the excess fluid that built up from the surgery. I had to empty those bad boys and measure the fluid output twice a day. I stayed down, sitting or prone, for the better part of two weeks. I was told to limit the use of my arms because I had so much fluid output. This was the toughest part, as it was the holidays and I just had to sit and watch everyone else participate in the fun. I healed quickly and was back to work two weeks post-op; just took it easy with some of the activities, as my job is very physical. Over time I've healed up and been able to do mostly all of the activities I'd like to do. The implants are settling and feeling more natural every day.
Over time I've healed up and been able to do mostly all of the activities I'd like to do. The implants are settling and feeling more natural every day. I will need 2-3 more procedures before I'm done, but I need to rest between surgeries and I want to limit how much time I take off of work. I'll keep you posted.