Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure to rebuild the breast after a mastectomy. There are two types: implant reconstruction and autologous reconstruction. You may also hear autologous reconstruction referred to as free tissue transfer or free flap.

In autologous reconstruction, the surgeon uses tissue (skin, fat, blood vessels and sometimes muscle) from another area of the body to rebuild the breast. To establish blood supply to the transferred tissue, surgeons connect its tiny blood vessels to blood vessels in the chest.

Some patients choose autologous reconstruction over implants for personal reasons. (See the FAQ section on Breast Reconstruction for advantages and disadvantages of each.) For others, it's their only reconstruction option because, after their breast cancer treatment, they don't have enough tissue to cover and support implants.

There are several ways to perform autologous reconstruction, described below. The most common is to take "donor tissue" from the lower belly, but the back, buttocks or thighs may be used instead.