Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Study Says Implants Double Risk of Infection in Breast Reconstruction

Here's an interesting article I found in the New York Times. I'm always on the lookout for this kind of stuff so i'll post anything I find here for your reading pleasure.

Study Says Implants Double Risk of Infection in Breast Reconstruction

Women given implants immediately after mastectomies were twice as likely to acquire infections as those whose own tissue was used in breast reconstruction.

Published: January 22, 2008

Breast cancer patients who had reconstructive surgery using implants immediately after mastectomies were twice as likely to acquire infections as women who immediately had breast reconstruction using their own tissue, according to a study published yesterday.

The article in Archives of Surgery, which examined the medical records of breast surgery patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis from mid-1999 to mid-2002, found that 50 of 949 patients acquired an infection at the surgical site within a year after surgery.

Roughly 12 percent of the infections occurred in mastectomy patients who immediately had implant surgery, compared with roughly 6 percent of infections in those who immediately had breast reconstruction using their own abdominal tissue, the study said. In noncancer patients, about 1 percent of infections occurred after breast reductions and no infections occurred after breast augmentation using implants, the study said.

“The bottom line is that implants are associated with an increased risk of infection in breast cancer patients,” said Margaret A. Olsen, the lead author of the study and a research assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “The question is what factors contribute to this increased risk and what can be done to prevent it?”

The study noted whether patients had other medical conditions like diabetes, but it did not report how many underwent radiation or other treatments that might have played a role in the infections.

The study did analyze the cost to the medical center of each infection — about $4,100 per patient — a hospital-acquired complication not covered by managed care, she said.

But both kinds of reconstructive surgery entail risk. Dr. Stephen R. Colen, the chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said operations using abdominal tissue took several hours longer than implant surgery, increasing the risk of blood clots and lung embolisms. In 2 percent of patients, the transplanted tissue dies, requiring further surgery, Dr. Colen said.

But implant reconstruction inserts a foreign object into the body, providing a surface on which bacteria may grow. And implantation involves a series of procedures — including one surgery to insert a skin-stretching device in the chest, followed by saline injections to expand the breast, another surgery to put in a permanent implant and a final surgery to attach a nipple — creating more occasions for infection to occur, Dr. Colen said.

Dr. Keith E. Brandt, a professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Washington University and an author of the study, said all patients received prophylactic antibiotics at the time of surgery. But postsurgical treatments for breast cancer, like radiation, may weaken the body’s ability to fight infection.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Why I'm here

The first few minutes of 2008 found me on a porch watching red and gold fireworks exploding in the distance. Behind me a rowdy group of my college friends chugged champagne straight from the bottles, and to my side they lit up cigars and congratulated each other on making it through the year.

Even with all the noise and light and excitement, I felt isolated. In my bubble everything was silent as I contemplated the events of the past year. Well… actually just one event — finding out that I was positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. I had always known my risk of getting breast cancer was elevated. My mother died from it when I was three, and her mother died before I was born from Ovarian cancer. But actually seeing a piece of paper from a real lab with a percentage and a confirmation that I, in fact, was 3-7 times more likely than the average person to get breast cancer by the age of 70, really shocked me into thinking about things I had never thought about before. And that’s why, right there on that tiny porch, as the vapor of my breath mushroomed around my face, I resolved to share my thoughts and story with anyone who would listen.

So - here's my blog.

It's a place for me to share my hopes, fears, musings, and findings on the topic of BRCA and cancer risk. Please enjoy it and I'd love to get some feedback or start up a dialogue with anyone who is interested.