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Complications of reconstructive and aesthetic breast surgery

Maurice Nahabedian, MD
Section Editor
Charles E Butler, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Complications following reconstructive or aesthetic breast surgery are important considerations for women pursuing these options. Reconstructive breast surgery following total or partial mastectomy can be performed using tissue flap or implant-based techniques and each have their own set of complications. Aesthetic breast surgery includes breast augmentation, reduction, and mastopexy, which are performed using tissue rearrangement techniques or by using breast implants.

The complications related to reconstructive and aesthetic breast surgery will be reviewed here. Issues related to the indications for, and choice of, a type of breast reconstruction are discussed elsewhere. (See "Overview of breast reconstruction" and "Options for flap based breast reconstruction" and "Implant based breast reconstruction and augmentation".)


Although most women who have reconstructive or aesthetic breast surgery do not experience significant complications and are highly satisfied, a range of problems can occur any time after the procedure is performed. Accurate complication rates may be difficult to identify and compare between studies due to variables such as differing types of reconstruction, surgeon experience, patient factors and comorbidities, as well as the duration of patient follow-up [1-7]. In one retrospective review of over 18,000 procedures, the incidence of noninfectious complications was 10.3 percent after mastectomy plus implant, 11.7 percent for mastectomy plus implant and flap, and 17.4 percent after mastectomy plus flap [8].

In general, complications following reconstructive or aesthetic breast surgery can be classified as:

Complications inherent to surgery and common to all, in general (eg, infection, venous thromboembolism, hematoma, delayed healing, abnormal scar). (See 'Local surgical complications' below.)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 25, 2016.
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