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Pain w/ expander reconstruction

deb2
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2002

I am looking for anyone who had pain with the tissue expander part of reconstruction. I had a bilateral mastectomy in November. Tissue expanders were inserted at that time. I have been going once a week since to be expanded but have been only able to tolerate 50 cc at a time. The pain is just incredible!

ktinkey
Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Deb,

I had a tissue expander on the right side in 1990. I did experience pain, but it was not intolerable. If I remember I took Tylenol before the procedure and after each time. My plastic surgeon also had me use a heating pad to help with the discomfort. Some weeks I could be expanded more than others, but let your body dictate how much you can stand. My doctor would closely monitor my response and stop when the pain reached a certain level. Just take it slowly. You are in charge of your own body and you know how much you can tolerate. It isn't a race. I know you want the whole procedure behind you, so you can go on, but take your time. It will be worth it in the end. And if you can't tolerate it, tell the doctor, and you have other options. Not every procedure is right for all women. I'll be honest. I encapsulated and had to have the procedure twice. It took me three years to complete the process, but I am so glad I did. Hopefully, things will get better. If the pain is too much ask the doctor if you can wait 2 weeks between each expansion. I am only a 34B and didn't have much room for expansion. The worst pain I experienced was with my portal. It rested on my rib and I felt pain there for over a year after. I just told myself everyday - at least I'm alive and can feel pain. That helped me. Good luck and talk to your doctor. They should be able to help you get some relief.

God Bless,
Kathy

deb2
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2002

Kathy -
Thanks for your reply. I realize that part of my problem is my impatience. I just want to be over and done with this whole mess. I just didn't realize that all of this would take so long. Somewhere along the way I thought I understood from the doctor that I would be finished with the expansion by this summer. I've been counting on having the second surgery in July. So I was really bummed when I figured out just last week that there "was no way, jos

jdevaul
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2003

I just had a bi-lateral mastectomy June 20th of 2003 and I am undergoing tissue expansion therpy right now. I have had some problems such as an infection in the incision under my right arm, it has cleared up now but the incision has not completly healed yet. I was doing the saline injections myself at home on a daily basis 10 ml at a time, they say that is less painful. I had to discontinue them for 2 weeks till the infection cleared up. Well it wasn't painful at all until I got up to 160ml on each side, until then the ports gave me more trouble than anything, they still are, now I have an infection in one of them. The doctor doesn't like it when I skip an injection now, but some days I do, I just have to have a pain free day sometimes. I have read all of the messages about everyone wanting larger breasts, and I have to ask you if your crazy? I was a 42 II. I dont want anything bigger than a B or C, the smallest that will seem normal. If you knew what kind of back problems and breathing problems large breast create you might want to think twice about it. I am past the age where I care what any man thinks about it, but fornately my husband agrees with me. Ask your doctor about daily injections at home it might work out better for you.

comom
Posts: 46
Joined: Dec 2001

Hi Deb,
I had pain with the expanders. My pain was due to the hard backing of the expander resting against my chest wall. They also hurt along the edges. I did feel some pain and discomfort during the expansion process but it usually subsided a day or two after the fill. My doc only filled 30cc's at each visit. Since I am only a 34B, I did not have that much expanding to do. I had my double mastectomy on Oct 22nd, and my second surgery to put in the permanant implants on Jan 15th. I don't understand why you have to wait so long to have your next surgery. The discomfort is greatly reduced once the permanent implants are in. If you are going for a a large breast size, talk to your doctor about the side affects of having large implants. The weight of the permanent implant is not the same as the weight of a natural breast. heavier implants may continue to contribute to your pain.
Trina

deb2
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2002

Trina -
I am actually only going for a 40B (I used to be a 40AA. But it is so hard to find bras that size.) The problem seems to be that my pectoral muscles are very thick and well developed. Therefore, they just don't want to stretch. My doctor's method is that you need to be two to three times the size that you want to be and stay that way for 2-3 months (I have no idea how many CCs that is). That way, the "final breasts" have a "natural movement" to them. His nurse has shown me photos of his work and the final breasts are just beautiful. My first physical therapy appt. is Monday. So hopefully it will relieve some of the pain I've been experiencing. Thank you for your reply.
Deb

martinbikermom's picture
martinbikermom
Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2002

I HAD THE TISSUE EXPANDER BUT NOT IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SURGERY. I CHOSE TO WAIT AND TRY THE PROSTETIC WHICH DID NOT DO ME WELL. I DIDN'T HAVE PAIN WITH EXPANDER MAYBE BECAUSE I WAITED. BUT I DO HAVE PAIN NOW CAUSE I SMOKE AND THEY USED BACK MUSCLE INSTEAD OF THE FAT FROM STOMACH TO REBUILD. I HAVE TO TAKE FLEXRALL ALL THE TIME CAUSE OF MUSCLE SPASMS.

m-star's picture
m-star
Posts: 444
Joined: Apr 2010

I thought id bump this thread up as i'm currently experiencing the most pain i've had so far with my expansions.

I had my 3rd fill 5 days ago and had 60ml each side put in. Toatal each side stands at 270ml. I have 300ml expanders in place.

This last expansion didn't seem too bad as he was doing it,but within about a half hour,i was in pain. Pain meds took it off a bit but 5 days after,i'm still experiencing pain,especially in my right side.

It doesn't hurt if i press the 'breast' but if i push it gently across toward the centre,the top inner edge hurts.Its almost like the pain is coming from UNDER the expander on the chest wall-but i'm not sure.

I have another top up in 9 days and im worried he wont be able to do it.

I was only a 36AA cup naturally so there wasn't alot of skin to play with. I hope im not reaching my limit! Maybe i let him put too much saline in last time. He told me to tell him if it hurt but i can usually tolerate pain quite well so it wasn't too bad. My worry is,that if i tell him how much it's hurt this time,he may not let me go any further.This may sound vain,but having new,larger breasts was the silver lining to my cloud.

Not sure what to do when i go next week.Should i ask him to do smaller amounts but over a longer period??

Help!

Christine Louise
Posts: 429
Joined: Feb 2010

Yes, I'd say so. Or put the whole thing off for a while. Or don't do any more expansions?? My expanders are not literally full, I'm just done. I, too, am small and they just looked right to me -- slightly bigger than my natural breasts.

My last fill was pretty painful. Although it was March 5, I'm still having significant discomfort, especially if I exercise at all. This has been so distressing, as I'm an active person and I thought gentle stretching was the way to go. I paid in pain for several days each time -- under my arms and into my shoulder blades.

The plastic surgeon said to just stop stretching now and get back in shape after the implants. He claims that the extensive scar tissue now prevents exercise, massage or physical therapy from being effective. This is confusing -- I know you do some massage. ??

He will open the scar encapsulation when he puts in the implants and says that will alleviate these discomforts. BUT, I wonder if I have such scarring now, am I likely to have encapsulation problems with the implants, too? A question for a new thread, I suppose.

My pain often feels like it's on my ribs under the expanders. The expander edges really cut in. I have to sit up very straight, and I am still sleeping in a recliner. Sometimes the expanders ache like my breasts did before a period! Last night, I scratched my nipple, shocked to find it not there! Phantom pains?

This whole process has not been as slick as I'd hoped, but I don't regret it.

m-star's picture
m-star
Posts: 444
Joined: Apr 2010

Hi Christine,
Thanks for your reply. I really dont want to stop expansions yet as i only have 270ml in each side. As a 5' 10", 144lb woman,i dont think it's enough! lol (but its already more than i had naturally before so i shouldn't complain!).

I think i will see what it feels like on th 13TH May when i next go.I will DEFINATELY be honest if it hurts this time though and get him to stop before it gets bad. The thing is,it really doesn't hurt as he's expanding.Its not until afterwards.

How much saline have you had injected into each side so far? All i want is a good projection so i look ok from a profile view. I've always looked bottom heavy with having a flat chest before hand-even though i'm not fat.

I hear ya on the rib ache! Its awful and feels like you've done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson! I really feel like this pain i have is the top inside edge of the expander now you mention it.It may be just digging in. Im sure it will ease up.It feels easier right now but its now night time here.It will be all sore agai in the morning when i wake up =(

Christine Louise
Posts: 429
Joined: Feb 2010

I stopped at 250 ccs in each side. That's slightly bigger than I was before, though I know the implants will be smaller than this. I'm 5'4" and 125 lbs, so I look fairly balanced.

Just got more reassurance from the plastic surgeon's nurse that these horrible-feeling expanders are doing okay. I've been in for checkups a couple of times because I get so distressed about the aches and pressure. She says, you guessed it, that that's how it's supposed to be. Sigh. Can't wait until July 7th!!

m-star's picture
m-star
Posts: 444
Joined: Apr 2010

I guess thats wellbalanced for your height and build then?
with me being tall and although i'm not fat,i do have 'heavy' legs and am a bit bigger from the waist down. Im bony up top though so having a bit more up top would balance me out better (IMO). Its really comical,cus each time i go for a top up,i wera the most unflattering bottoms to make by bottom half look as fat as poss and i sit there pushing my belly out,just so my PS sees me as being bigger so he'll keep going a bit more with my expansions!!! lmao!!

The lengths i'll go too for a decent rack!!!

My hubby sits there laughing! 'luckily' i have lots of loose skin on my tummy from when i was pregnant so it pushes out real well! I have even gained a little weight purely for this purpose and intend to work my butt off to lose it once my exchange has been done. Crafty huh?? =)

On a good note,the pains only seem bad when i wake up now. i think the pressure on my chest wall when im laying down is causing the problems.When i'm upright the pain more or less goes.

Christine Louise
Posts: 429
Joined: Feb 2010

Yeah, I feel pretty curvy and balanced. I'm toward the petite side and never had large breasts, so I couldn't imagine going bigger. Because I run (well, not right now) and absolutely hate bras anyway, I wanted to stay smallish. And, my husband really recoiled at the plastic surgeon's before-and-after photos of women who'd gone "Pamela Anderson" with their implants. "Don't!" he begged.

Ha, ha -- you are very crafty with your "fat" strategy! Surely the PS will fill you as full as you want as long as you are willing to put up with it? We sure have to go through a lot to get a bosom, but we'll be satisfied when we're done, I'm betting.

I'm still sleeping in the recliner, even though surgery was Jan.25 and last fill was March 6. Just can't handle laying down at all! I'm sort of the elephant in the living room, I guess, but husband and daughter are tolerant. If I have poor posture even when I'm sitting or standing, the expanders cut into me.

Dawne.Hope's picture
Dawne.Hope
Posts: 825
Joined: Sep 2009

hi m-star,

I've had my expanders filled different amounts every two weeks since my bi-lateral in February. I feel pressure on my left side and nothing on the right side when they are filled. The pain always hits me after. I was a 32C before the surgery, and I'm not sure I am going to make it to that size. I have 250 cc's in right now and I'm comfortable with where I'm at. And I am tired of the pain. My left side almost always hurts, depending on how much exericse I've done that day. Before the expanders were full, I could literally feel the corner on the expander on that side. OUCH! It is especially bad when I accidently roll over at night.

I would definitely tell your PS about your pain level. I agree that it isn't a race. And my PS told me it would be a collaboration on size, because there is a limit to what the skin can handle. And you don't want problems later.

Blessings,
dh

m-star's picture
m-star
Posts: 444
Joined: Apr 2010

Hi Dawn, thanks for your input. I thought there must be something wrong with me for them to hurt with just 270ml in! Im kinda glad im not the only one,but thats not saying im glad your suffereing also!!! lol you know what i mean im sure =)

Its when you read about women having 500/600/700+ ml in with no problems. I have stopped all of my exercise (i do Tae Kwondo) as this was firming my pec's back up so all i do now is jogging on the spot in the house,and lower body work such as squats/lunges etc.

I am still stretching my top half with the physio exercises but not as much. I will def tell my PS that i'd rather have smaller fills but more of them as from next week. Will see what he says and hope he agrees. I am just SO determined to be bigger! I have to be sensible though.Thanks

Redjellybeans
Posts: 1
Joined: May 2013

I have been reading your thread and your experience.  It was the same as what I am currently going through at the moment.  I am very much the same size as you were pre surgery and struggling with the painanddiscomfortmy expanders are giving me.  I have now had 250mm in my expanders and the pain is excruciating. (50mm each time).  I. am meant to get another  50mm and then my implants, which means I will be biggein than I was per surgery.  I am not sure how I am going to handle that last 50mm.  the expanders are. For 300mm but my surgeon says I can go a little over this..... so still wondering even about the aside component.

Can you tell me how long the pain lasted for you and how large you eventually went.  Were you happy with the out come, I.e shape, size once the implants went.  Do you have any advice or questions I should be asking my surgeon?

I hope you don't mind me asking.

Thank you so much in sharing you thread.

Many many thanks

 

Fleur

 

e_hope's picture
e_hope
Posts: 371
Joined: Sep 2009

I had bilateral expanders. and they suck.. having them filled is not fun by any means.. as my plastic surgeon explained it to me was.. it's going to hurt and give you lots of pressure and just as the pain and pressure starts to ease up it will be time to have them filled again. Your body will adjust to the expanders being in and the pain will subside. They will continue to be uncomfortable..

MASSAGE......MASSAGE.....MASSAGE... your breast it does help...

but that being said... its worth it in the end! I had my silicone implants placed in Dec. after living with the expanders for 10 months.. and you get instant relief!

prior to surgery my natural breast were a very very small b, large a... I had expanders filled to 450 .. and I had 550cc silicone implants placed.. and on my frame it gave me a large c small d cups... So i was very happy with all the pain and it was worth it in the end..

m-star's picture
m-star
Posts: 444
Joined: Apr 2010

Thanks for replying =)

As far as i can remember,my breast care nurses told me there would be pressure and tightness but i don't ever remember being told it would be this bad. I guess everyone handles pain differently.
I am not normally a baby where pain is concerned! This is more like a nagging tooth ache in my boob!

I am massaging my scar and above and below,with Bio-Oil and i also massage the rest of the breast for a few minutes. I read on another forum that alot of women pretty much stay on pain med's from having their Mx,right through to their implant exchange! Is that normal?? Maybe i'm not taking enough. I only take them (usually) after an expansion for 1 day.This time however,i took a muscle relaxant (codeine) before my fill and some Paracetamol.I took it for 24 hours after too but then stopped.I've not taken any since. I think pain is the bodys way of telling you to ease up so if your killing the pain,you may over-do things. I may have to review my theory!! lol

Glad you got a good size implant! What was it like having a larger implant than the expanders were? Did it pull with being bigger? They tend to over stretch you here in th uk then put a smaller implant in =(

MerleBee's picture
MerleBee
Posts: 49
Joined: May 2010

I had a bilateral mastectomy on March 24th. I was in no way prepared for the reality of expanders although I beleived I had done "all the research". During the surgery the PS punctured my chest wall collapsing my lung. I thought the discomfort at first was a largely due to that...yeah not so much. I was initially expanded 60cc at surgery, 30ccs on the first fill and 60ccs at every fill since then. I am currently at 330ccs with my fils now relagated to every three weeks due to chemo. My exchange is now put off until at least September or October. I am generally uncomfortable and have this wierd point that sticks out of the right side into where the clevage use to be (lol)and causes me constant pain. I too have been struggling with a a good correlation between expander size and appearance versus implant. I am going with the the "gummi bear" and I am prayerful that anything has to look better than the Picaso I have goin' on right now..,.it's like Picaso meets Baywatch...I was made to feel like taking pain meds etc. was unnecessary. You all have helped me immeasurably to know that I am not a baby and I am not alone!

...and just a thought...why couldn't it be cancer of the "saddlebag"?...I mean really, you would get the diagnosis, have both of those pesky fat outer thighs trimmed away and there would be no reconstruction....right?

MerleBee

TawnyS
Posts: 144
Joined: Apr 2010

The saddlebag cancer...I read that to my husband and we laughed like crazy! Why is there no such thing? On a more serious note, we were mortified to hear about the lung issue. WOW! What an ordeal. You still have a great attitude about it. I guess there's really no other alternative. Hope things go well for you! Hugs! Tawny

hope4thebest's picture
hope4thebest
Posts: 108
Joined: Aug 2012

Those expanders are much worse than the implants, you will feel better.  Our muscles are really big, and spread across our backs, it reminded me of large wings that wieghed on my back.  I hope it getsbetter, there are many factors invovled.  I am 2 years outs since the echange, when they transferred the expanders out and the implants in.  It is much better after getting rid of those expanders, they are very rigid.  Ther implants are softer.  Finally, I am feeling pretty good, but we are all different.  I think exercise is the most important thing we can do.  I did not massage my scars, but we are all different!! whatever works for you!!  Try to keep some light stretching, and walking/ breathing into your day.  For me, the lungs were very sore, and all those muscles were destroyed.  You will feel better!!  Talk to your Dr about any and all medications, they should be able to manage things.  I took my codeine at night, so I could sleep well.  Do what you can to get through, but exercise before talking any pains meds, it is safe to feel the real pain and know where you are at with your healing.  Do not rush yourself, good things take time.  I was a 34A and went up to a 34 B, it has been hard for my body to get used to it.  Even a small change is major, give yourself some time to adapt.

Stay well,

Annie

shelbyhome
Posts: 145
Joined: Feb 2010

deb2, Have you always been getting fills since your expanders were put in? The Dr. told me that you can leave them in forever ONCE THEY ARE FILLED... he said that scare tissue builds over the expanders and it makes it harder to fill and more painful. Hopes this helps you out.

kb8ogb
Posts: 2
Joined: May 2010

I am also having quite of bit of discomfort with my expanders. My plastic surgeon wanted to put larger expanders in and keep filling. I said I have had enough!!! I am at 600cc's in each breast. My bi-lateral mastectomy was Jan. 25th and my expanders will be replaced with the "real thing" on June 15th! I have been feeling so guilty complaining about the discomfort and thinking that it is just me, so I thank you all for your comments!!! Becky

Christine Louise
Posts: 429
Joined: Feb 2010

Hey Becky, my bi-laterals were Jan. 25, too, with immediate expander placement. I have to wait until July 7 for implants because of just finishing chemo. Yeah, I feel like I chose this, just had to have breasts, greedy vain me, so how can I complain about the expander pain. The discomfort keeps getting worse. Now my sides and shoulder blades hurt a lot of the time too. Doing anything like vacuuming, folding laundry, scrubbing pans can set off several hours of pain. Sometimes I don't think I'll make it -- get 'em out now! But, I will, I know. I've come this far. Just a little venting ...

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