Doctors recently found they can preserve the mammary artery during a type of breast reconstructive surgery in which the patient’s own tissue is used.
The surgery, in which doctors do a “tummy tuck” and use the tissue and fat to reconstruct a breast that has been removed in a mastectomy, traditionally involves removing most of the internal mammary artery. But doctors at Johns Hopkins University have found that with just 20 minutes of added surgical time, they can preserve the artery.
The internal mammary artery is often the first and best option for doctors performing cardiac bypass surgery. Few women ever need cardiac bypass surgery. But radiation therapy, sometimes required after a mastectomy for breast cancer, causes radiation damage to heart vessels, which is known to increase the risk of heart problems.
Researchers have found that women who have had radiotherapy for cancer on the left side, close to the heart, are twice as likely to die of a heart attack.