Technology Helps Women Undergoing Breast Reconstruction

Doctors Can Determine Best Time For Performing Surgery

Published On: Oct 31 2011 03:59:09 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 14 2011 08:06:54 AM EDT
PARKLAND, Fla. -

When a doctor told Tammy Krichmar that the visible lumps in her breast were probably benign cysts, she should have been relieved; instead, she was suspicious.

"It just didn't seem right to me that one lump became two lumps, and they kept saying they saw nothing on mammogram or ultrasound," Krichmar said.

A breast oncologist told Krichmar if she was that concerned, they could remove the lumps.

"When they did, they found it was cancer," she said. "Not only was it cancer, but it was an aggressive cancer with a high recurrence rate."

Krichmar opted to undergo a double mastectomy in May 2010.

Fortunately, her surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Florida was working with a new technology called advanced laser-assisted indocyanine green angiography to actually measure the blood flow to the tissue that remains after surgical excision.

"Using this device allows us to peek into the circulation of the skin and see really what's going on that we can't see with the naked eye," said Dr. Michel Samson.

If the tissue is viable, doctors can perform reconstructive surgery immediately following mastectomy, without having to put the patient through a second surgery.

"If the tissue is not viable, we can either remove the skin that has poor circulation and continue with reconstruction, or we can wait a few weeks to perform the reconstruction so the remaining tissue has time to heal," said Samson.

Tests showed that Krichmar's breast tissue had poor circulation at the time she underwent her mastectomy, so doctors decided to wait on reconstruction.

"I was in a position where I couldn't use skin from other parts of my body for reconstruction, so if they'd gone ahead with the surgery at that time, and if the tissue had died, I wouldn't have had any other options," she said.

Now, more than a year after surgery, Krichmar has recovered fully from successful reconstructive surgery.

As the imaging technology becomes more widely used, Samson said thousands of women may benefit from this surgical advancement.