Implant Reconstruction in Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Radiation Therapy

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Implant reconstruction in breast cancer patients treated with radiation therapy is controversial. Prior studies are limited by older prosthetic devices, reconstructive techniques, and radiation therapy protocols.


A retrospective review was performed of patients who underwent tissue expansion and implant breast reconstruction performed by a single surgeon after mastectomy for breast cancer from 1996 to 2003. Complications and aesthetic results were compared between patients who received radiation therapy and those who did not.


A total of 104 patients (123 breasts) who underwent mastectomy and implant breast reconstruction were included in the study. Twenty-seven patients (27 breasts) received either premastectomy or postmastectomy radiation therapy for breast cancer. All patients who received radiation therapy did so before completion of their implant reconstruction. Complications ultimately requiring prosthetic device removal or replacement, as well as total complications (those requiring prosthetic removal or replacement and those not requiring prosthetic removal or replacement), were more frequent in breasts that received radiation than breasts that did not (18.5 percent versus 4.2 percent for complications requiring prosthetic removal or replacement, p ≤ 0.025, and 40.7 percent versus 16.7 percent for total complications, p ≤ 0.01). Breast symmetry was significantly better in patients who did not receive radiation compared with those who did (p < 0.01).


Implant breast reconstruction in patients who receive radiation therapy is possible but associated with more frequent complications and decreased aesthetic results. However, the present results compare favorably to those reported in prior studies. Improved results in the present study may be attributable to the use of newer prostheses, staged breast reconstruction with initial tissue expansion, total muscular coverage of the implant, and modern radiation therapy protocols.

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