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Pain After Mastectomy and Implant Breast Reconstruction

Jandali Plastic Surgery

At Jandali Plastic Surgery, Trumbull, Connecticut, we recognize that the journey of healing after a mastectomy can be physically and emotionally challenging. One such challenge that many patients encounter is post-mastectomy pain. Our dedicated team is committed to providing comprehensive and empathetic care to alleviate this pain and improve your quality of life.

Pain After Mastectomy and Implant Breast Reconstruction

A mastectomy involves the surgical removal of one or both breasts and can be a traumatic experience for any woman. Breast reconstruction is often recommended as a way to restore the appearance of the breast(s) and help women regain their confidence and sense of self. However, many women experience pain after mastectomy and breast reconstruction, which can be a challenging aspect of the recovery process. We will explore pain after mastectomy and breast reconstruction, its causes, and treatment options.

Causes of Pain After Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

  • Surgical incision pain: Pain around the surgical incision is a common side effect of mastectomy and breast reconstruction. This pain may be felt as a burning, stinging, or sharp/stabbing sensation on the breast or the side of the chest.
  • Phantom breast pain: Some women experience pain in the breast that was removed, even though it is no longer there. This is known as phantom breast pain and is caused by the brain continuing to receive pain signals from the nerves in the missing breast.
  • Nerve damage: During surgery, nerves in the chest wall and breast tissue can be stretched or cut, resulting in pain and discomfort.
  • Implant-related pain: Breast reconstruction with implants can cause pain. Some breast implants are placed underneath the muscle, which can cause spasms of the muscle and animation deformities. Implants can also be too big for the patient, putting excessive pressure on the surrounding tissues. Implants can move or flip inside a pocket that is too large or loose – this causes pain and odd sensations in the breast when it occurs.
  • Capsular contracture: Capsular contracture is a condition that occurs when the scar tissue around a breast implant tightens and hardens, causing pain and discomfort. This always occurs to some degree with radiation therapy but can also occur in women who have not undergone radiation.
  • Radiation damage: After mastectomy, radiation affects not only the skin and underlying implant, but also the chest wall down to the muscle and ribs. This can cause chronic pain and tightness and restricted range of motion.

Treatment Options for Pain after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

  • Pain medication: Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to manage the pain caused by mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may also be helpful. Chronic pain after mastectomy is sometimes treated with gabapentin (Neurontin).
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you perform exercises to stretch and loosen the muscles and scar tissue around the surgical site. This can help alleviate pain and improve your range of motion.
  • Massage therapy: A massage therapist can massage the area around the surgical site to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Heat therapy: Heat therapy can help alleviate pain and stiffness by increasing blood flow to the area. You can use a heating pad or take a warm bath to help relieve pain.
  • Capsular contracture treatment: If capsular contracture is the cause of your pain, your doctor may recommend a procedure called a capsulectomy to remove the hardened and thick scar tissue.
  • Implant removal: In severe cases, your doctor may recommend removing the breast implant to alleviate pain. One’s own tissues can also replace the implant with surgery like a DIEP flap. This often helps improve the pain significantly. For women with capsular contracture, pain from the implant underneath the muscle, or pain from radiation therapy, a DIEP flap is likely the best option to improve pain.

Prevention of Pain After Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

It is important to follow all recommended postoperative directions and have routine follow up with your breast and plastic surgeons. Pain can be prevented by choosing a plastic surgeon who performs pre-pectoral implant breast reconstruction. This allows the pectoralis muscle to stay attached in its usual position on the chest wall. It is much more painful, and the recovery is much longer if your plastic surgeon detaches the muscle from the chest and stretches it to put the tissue expander or implant underneath it (subpectoral implant breast reconstruction). When the implant is placed underneath the muscles, this also causes the muscle to attach to the undersurface of the breast skin. This causes pulling on the skin whenever a patient flexes or moves in certain ways (animation deformity).

Natural breast reconstruction with a DIEP flap is another way to prevent a lot of pain that can be associated with implant breast reconstruction. Using one’s own tissues from the abdomen to rebuild the breast gives a natural and soft breast without the risks and side effects of implants. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the pain last after breast reconstruction surgery with implants?

It is normal to experience some pain and discomfort in the healing phase after any type of breast reconstruction surgery. In addition, the duration of the pain can vary from person to person. Typically, the pain is most intense in the first few days or weeks after surgery and gradually decreases over time. In most cases, the pain should subside within a few months. However, some women may experience pain for several months or it can even become chronic and lifelong.

How can I manage the pain after breast reconstruction surgery with implants?

If your implant is hard from capsular contracture or radiation therapy, this can be drastically improved by removing the implant and performing natural breast reconstruction with a DIEP flap. 

When should I contact my doctor about my pain after breast reconstruction surgery with implants?

If you experience severe or persistent pain after breast reconstruction surgery with implants, it is important to contact your doctor right away. Other symptoms to watch for include fever, excessive swelling, or bleeding from the incision site.

Can capsular contracture cause pain after breast reconstruction surgery with implants?

Yes, capsular contracture is a common complication of breast reconstruction surgery with implants and can cause pain, discomfort, and a change in breast shape or position. Capsular contracture occurs when the scar tissue around the implant tightens and compresses the implant, causing pain and discomfort. Treatment for capsular contracture may necessitate surgical removal of the scar tissue (capsulectomy).

Are there any long-term complications associated with pain after breast reconstruction surgery with implants?

In some cases, chronic pain or discomfort may persist after breast reconstruction surgery with implants. Additionally, there may be a risk of implant rupture or leakage, implant displacement or malposition, or capsular contracture. It is important to discuss any concerns you have about long-term complications with your plastic surgeon.

Initiate Your Journey Towards Pain Management Today

Experiencing pain after a mastectomy can be challenging for your recovery journey. At Jandali Plastic Surgery, we are committed to providing you with the care and support necessary to manage this pain effectively and improve your overall well-being.

Should you be experiencing post-mastectomy pain, we urge you not to endure it in silence. Reach out to us and schedule a consultation with Dr. Jandali. Our team is ready to work with you, crafting a tailored plan to manage your post-mastectomy pain and enhance your recovery process.

Remember, pain doesn’t have to be a constant part of your life after a mastectomy. With the proper care and support, relief is not just possible – it’s within reach. Your journey toward pain management starts with a single step. Call us today at (203) 374-0310 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Jandali. This is the first step towards a more comfortable, pain-free life post-mastectomy. With Jandali Plastic Surgery, you’re not just choosing a clinic – you’re choosing a partner in your recovery journey. Reach out today, and let’s take that first step together.

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