Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

An article published in Medscape.com on burns in breasts after mastectomy which also included after breast reconstruction admittedly left me riveted.  Look at this statement from the article:

Together with this case series, the literature suggests the most common heat sources responsible for the identified burns included:

  1. Heat conduction: using heating pads, hot liquids, and hyperthermia devices.

  2. Solar radiation: sunbathing with a dark swimsuit or using a sun lamp.

  3. Heat convection: using hair dryers.

A close examination of this article and the above-mentioned items leads me to conclude that the most common culprits are household items and sunbathing.  I was given literature regarding post-surgical care from the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap breast reconstruction to clearly avoid heat of any kind to my reconstructed breast, including standing with my back to the shower as well as sunbathing.

I personally was a bit stunned at reading the leading causes of these burns but human nature begets spontaneous behavior that in this case seems to me to be ill thought out.  Breast reconstruction is huge surgery whether you choose implant based or autologous, using your own tissue.  I viewed my newly reconstructed breasts as works of art and treated them as such.  I gave them time to heal and followed doctors’ orders when it came to all manner of care, including avoiding heat to the healing skin.

The conclusion from the article states:

Conclusion. The removal of thermoregulatory capabilities of the skin and the thickness of the remaining tissue in the mastectomy procedure are key to understanding the cause of burns to reconstructed breasts.

What is thermoregulation?  It is a process that allows your body to maintain its core internal temperature.  Since the nerves and tissue are disrupted during breast reconstruction this process of thermoregulation is no doubt disrupted and thrown off balance somewhat during surgery.  Added to that there will be areas of numbness that you should be aware of after breast reconstruction surgery or any surgery that involves cutting of skin, nerves, and tissue.

Why am I writing this article?  The truth; If I reach a handful of readers to caution them NOT to use any of these household products or sunbath after breast reconstruction, mission accomplished.  Spread the word if you’ve read this article.  Discuss this with your plastic surgeon during your consult.  If they don’t give you literature on this or tell you about it for your post-surgical care they should!  Thank you to my plastic surgery group for doing so!  Let’s be responsible, patients and physicians alike.

Heat sources and newly reconstructed breasts don’t mix well, period!

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts


References made to my surgical group, surgeon and healthcare team are made because they are aligned with my values and met my criterion after I did research of their practices and success rates. Any other healthcare provider that displays the same skill, compassion education and outreach to patients will be given consideration and recognition on this website.  The information contained on this website is not a substitute for or should be construed as medical advice. Please consult a licensed physician for medical advice.

2 thoughts on “Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

  1. Rebecca

    This is the first I’m hearing of any of this. I wonder if it mostly applies when you don’t have skin sparing / nipple sparing? Looking at the numbers – 59 cases in 30 years, it doesn’t sound like that big of an issue. I do agree with the idea of thinking of reconstructed breasts as a work of art. I kinda like showing mine off – my surgeon did an awesome job!

    • Terri Post author

      I agree with you Rebecca. These seem to be isolated incidences and I was surprised at the common household items in the study. Seems common sense to me to keep these away from any area of the body and to use with caution. I’m so happy to hear you are pleased with your results. Music to my ears!!


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