Reconstructive plastic surgery options

August 30, 2022 Swedish Health Team

[3 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Two experts from Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics explain the differences between reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery and focus on the benefits of reconstructive surgery in this article

  • Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics is proud to feature the work of four female plastic surgeons dedicated to providing comprehensive care that makes a difference in your overall wellbeing.

  • Several surgical options are available at Swedish to meet the diverse plastic surgery and reconstruction needs of our community.

Plastic surgery can change your appearance, enhance what exists, reshape your body and improve and restore function.

The four female plastic surgeons at Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics offer a wide range of plastic surgery procedures, including reconstruction and cosmetic options. We talked to two of them, Suzette Miranda, MD, and Grace Um, MD, to get their insights about plastic surgery and the impact it has on their patients’ lives. They worked together to provide answers to several frequently asked questions. Here’s what they shared.

What is the difference between cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery?

Reconstructive surgery aims to restore form and function after a patient has surgery or experiences trauma from other medical conditions. For example, after a patient has a mastectomy for breast cancer, reconstructive surgery restores and reconstructs the breast allowing the patient to feel whole again. 

Cosmetic surgery is usually performed to enhance someone’s overall appearance. The starting point is normal anatomy and the goal is to make it more visually appealing. 

Both reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery can be incredibly rewarding and improve self-image.

What reconstructive surgery services are available at Swedish?

 As an integral division of the Swedish Cancer Institute, our team works extensively with patients who require reconstruction after cancer treatment. We also work with other surgical subspecialists such as orthopedics, general surgeons and vascular surgeons, who require wound reconstruction that resulted from various other medical conditions. 

We offer breast reconstruction, both implant-based and tissue-based, as well as reconstruction of the chest, back, pelvis, and upper and lower extremities. 

As an all-female surgeon team, we are proud to work with female patients, especially as we partner with our breast cancer surgery colleagues. We have been providing reconstructive breast surgery options and have introduced a new partner, Dr. Um, who specializes in offering a natural, flap option for breast reconstruction.

What are the differences between implant-based and tissue-based breast reconstruction? 

Breast reconstruction can be achieved by using an implant, a patient’s own tissue (autologous/flap reconstruction) or sometimes a combination of the two. Both options can create beautiful shape and volume.  

Implant reconstruction relies on breast implants to help form a new breast mound. A tissue-based flap or autologous reconstruction uses tissue from another body part to form a new breast. There are different risks and benefits for each method. We carefully consider each patient’s goals and preferences as we tailor each reconstruction to their needs. 

Implant-based breast reconstruction remains a safe, effective and popular option for postmastectomy patients. The advantages of implant-based surgery are that it takes less time in the OR, has a shorter recovery period and doesn’t require any new incisions other than those from the mastectomy. In the United States, there has been a trend toward greater use of implants for breast reconstruction.

Autologous tissue reconstruction is also safe and effective while being innovative and a natural alternative. Reconstruction lasts a lifetime. It is often a better option for patients that have had radiation, which permanently changes the breast skin and makes it more difficult to retain an implant. Autologous tissue is your own and will change with you over time. Dr. Um is an expert in this type of reconstruction and looks forward to offering this option to patients here at Swedish.

Both options are associated with high patient satisfaction and health-related quality of life. We are happy to offer both options to our patient population so they can choose the one that fits their lifestyle. 

What should patients know before having reconstructive surgery?

During the comprehensive consultation, we individualize surgical options for each patient based on their needs. We thoroughly discuss the risks and benefits of each procedure. We work with the patient and our medical colleagues to optimize our patients’ overall health before they undergo reconstructive surgery.

For example, for a patient whose uncontrolled diabetes could impact their surgical outcome, we work closely with their endocrinologist to decrease risks. In addition, we would encourage smokers to participate in our cessation program before undergoing surgery. The goal is to optimize good surgical outcomes for all our patients and to use our Swedish resources to allow for best practices.

What are the benefits of reconstructive surgery?

The goal of reconstructive surgery is to restore form and function, which can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. There is a huge variety of benefits to reconstruction.

When we achieve coverage of an open wound, for example, that can decrease the burden of care and allow someone to return to a regular routine more quickly. Breast reconstruction after mastectomy can be critical for some patients to look and feel whole again. Extremity reconstruction can mean the difference between amputation and being able to walk independently. 

Does insurance cover reconstructive surgery? 

Most insurance plans cover medically indicated procedures. Our team works with each patient to help determine whether procedures are covered

What should patients look for in a plastic surgeon? 

Board certification ensures that the surgeon has met the rigorous standards of medical knowledge, clinical judgment, surgical skills, high-quality training and ethical conduct set by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). There are many physicians – especially with the rise of social media – that market themselves as certified by boards that are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Always make certain that your plastic surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and not a “Cosmetic Surgery Board Certification.”

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Learn more and find a provider

If you have questions about reconstructive plastic surgery and the difference it can make in your life, contact Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options.

Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Related resources 

Oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery method expands cancer treatment options

New labeling guidelines for breast implants

Breast cancer: New research. New therapies. New hope.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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