Wednesday, 28 March 2018

What happens during a breast expander fill?

So today was my final breast expander fill following my mastectomy. A few people have asked exactly what happens during the short appointment so I thought I'd share the procedure with you.

Breast Expander Implant
Firstly, left is image of what my expander implant looks like, this should help you understand how the procedure works.
The outer part of the expandable implant is made of of silicone gel and inside is an inflatable, inner chamber. The inner chamber is where the saline collects as you have your fills. The darker part of the expander that you can see on the image is the valve or port. The saline is injected through this valve and in to the inner chamber, stretching the muscle that is holding the expander in place. Once full, the full expander stays in for around 3 to 6 months before its replaced with a full silicone implant.

The fill procedure may be done by your surgeon or the breast nursing team. Usually the first fill is done in theatre when you have the implant inserted the you return every week for a top up. My expander takes a maximum of 400cc of saline. 250cc was added during my surgery and this will be my third 50cc injection at the clinic.

So here we go, here's what happens during a breast expander fill appointment...

Once in the consultation room I head behind the curtain and remove my clothing - just everything on my top half - no full nudity required! Your nurse will give you a gown to cover up and once you have it on you can lie down on the bed.

Get comfy and relaxed, you don't want to have to move midway through the process.

Once your comfortable the nurse will use a special device called a 'Magna-Finder' to locate the valve in your expander.

Locating the breast expander port

The nurse will move the Magna-Finder across the breast and as she does the vertical magnet will be pulled towards the magnet in your expander. When it is completely vertically straight, its in the correct place. The nurse or surgeon will then mark up the injection site - usually using a biro!


A larger needle is used to draw the saline

Next the nurses will prepare the syringe. Everything is sterile and is laid out on a trolley. To fill the syringe with the saline, the nurses use a large needle. Do not worry about the thickness of this needle! This is just the needle that is placed in to the saline solution and then as the nurse pulls up the syringe plunger the saline is drawn in to the syringe.

The needle they use to fill the syringe is much wider than the needle that goes in to your body during the procedure. In fact the nurse told me the needle they use is just the same width as a needle they use to give immunisation jabs.

Once the syringe is filled with the correct measure (this final fill was 50cc for me) the nurse will switch the to the finer needle and you're ready to go.

Lining the needle up to the pre-marked area, the nurse injects the saline directly in to the implant. The fill takes less than two minutes and for those or you that aren't queasy, you can watch the clip I recorded of my final fill below.

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