(HealthDay News) — Most women undergoing breast reconstruction after a mastectomy will need several operations, according to a new study. The findings were to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, held from April 29 to May 3 in Orlando, Fla.

Researchers collected data on 3,972 women who had breast reconstruction between 2002–2008. The patients underwent therapeutic or prophylactic mastectomies between 2002–2008, followed by an immediate or delayed post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Tracking patients for an average of 5.1 years or to their death, re-operations were identified based on Ontario Health Insurance Plan billing codes.

Eighty-eight percent had at least two breast reconstruction operations, 65% had more than two, and 39% had four or more. “Women undergoing breast reconstruction should expect to have an average of two operations,” lead researcher Amanda Roberts, MD, a clinical research fellow at the University of Toronto, said during a Thursday morning news conference.

Roberts said that some re-operations are expected. These can involve replacing a tissue expander with a permanent breast implant, or recreating a nipple, she explained. However, some operations are unexpected and deal with long-term complications, such as bleeding, infection, or abdominal bulges resulting from the use of abdominal tissue for the breast reconstruction. “One in 10 patients had one or more unanticipated reapportions,” she said. “Additional surgeries after breast reconstruction can lead to problems, potentially reducing the quality of life.”

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