Breast reconstruction is considered medically necessary surgery, not cosmetic surgery. This means insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid “cover” this procedure.
Reconstruction can be immediate, at the time of the mastectomy, or delayed, weeks, months, or even years after the mastectomy.
Reconstruction of the breast is complicated, and anyone considering this procedure needs to spend time talking to a board certified Plastic Surgeon. Reconstruction of the breast can be classified into three basic techniques. Muscle flap reconstruction uses the patient’s own tissue to make a new breast. This is the most complex type of reconstruction, and therefore has the highest complication rate. Another option is to place a tissue expander, and gradually add saline over the next few months, until the skin and muscle are stretched enough to make the new breast the desired size. Then the expander is removed, and a permanent prosthesis is placed. The third and simplest method is to place an implant only. This can only be done in women requiring minimum volumes for reconstruction.
Following reconstruction the other breast can be reduced or lifted in order to achieve symmetry, and this is also usually covered by insurance.
To complete the reconstruction a nipple can be made as an outpatient procedure. This is usually done 6-12 months after the initial reconstruction.