More and more women are undergoing breast reconstruction in the United States. Statistics show that from year 2000 to year 2010, there has been an increase in the number of breast reconstruction procedures performed in the United States by as much as 18%. Now, Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) aids surgeons during reconstructive breast surgeries.
Breast reconstruction is a form of a skin flap procedure. It is a process wherein skin flaps are used as a cover for areas damaged due to tissue loss, trauma, cancer excision, and even congenital defects. For instance, skin flaps are used to replace lost breast tissues after a lumpectomy or make a new breast after a mastectomy. The skin flaps which may come from a woman’s tissue or fat located in some other part of her body, such as the tummy or the back, are taken out and placed to her breast area. Thereafter, the tissues are formed into the shape of her actual breast, which is now referred to as the skin flap. Breast reconstruction is usually availed of by women who cannot or do not want to have implants or those who already had a lot of skin or tissues taken away from the breast. The procedure can be done to women with different sizes of breasts. People who had undergone breast reconstruction reported that the shape of their reconstructed breasts feels and looks more natural.
Although breast reconstruction has an edge over having breast implants for being less risky, it has its own downside too. After a breast reconstruction procedure, the woman would have to live with a scar on the area where the tissue or fat has been removed and a discoloration in the skin area of the reconstructed breast. There are also reports that there is either absence or only minimal sensation felt by reconstructed breasts. Aside from this, breast reconstruction involves longer recovery period and would mean higher medical bills. It is also of common knowledge that breast reconstruction which is a skin flap procedure is not a simple process as it entails close monitoring after the procedure has been completed. The reason for this is that there have been cases where complications in the flap area occur. These complications are brought about by either an insufficient blood supply or a completely blocked blood supply in the area.
To aid surgeons in monitoring skin flaps during and after the procedure, they have been using the ever reliable near infrared (NIR) spectral imaging. It is a non-evasive imaging which effectively detects any complications in the area, particularly those that involve blood supply since it measures the amount of hemoglobin and its oxygen content. Dr. Mike Sowa and his team likewise stress that NIR spectral imaging has high accuracy in predicting the outcome of flap tissues. The best thing about the NIR is that since it is non-evasive, it allows the surgeons to look inside the body without having to cut through the body. Another good thing about NIR spectral imaging is that it is relatively affordable and allows for faster analysis.
It is in this light that NIR spectral imaging is being regarded today as the most efficient and effective way to predict the success or failure of breast reconstruction procedures. This is good news for both the plastic surgeons and the people who would want to undergo breast reconstruction procedures.
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