Discovery Channel films Mt. Pleasant surgery

  • 2006-08-17
  • Discovery Channel films Mt. Pleasant surgery

MOUNT PLEASANT -- When Celia "Cici" Franklin's third set of breast implants failed, her plastic surgeon recommended a fourth. There had to be another option, she thought. That night, the breast cancer survivor put her two sons to bed in their Eagle, Colo., home, and she went online to research alternatives.

It only took three search terms -- "breast reconstruction alternatives" -- and she got an answer: microsurgical breast reconstruction. In the quiet of the midnight hour, Franklin e-mailed Charleston-based Dr. Robert Allen, who pioneered the surgery.

Only a handful of surgeons perform the painstaking procedure that rebuilds breasts from a patient's own tissue, attaching microscopic blood vessels to nourish the transplanted skin and fat.

Franklin wanted other women to know their options, so she agreed to tell her story for the Discovery Health Channel show "Plastic Surgery: Before and After." On Aug. 8 a crew filmed the eight-hour surgery at the East Cooper Regional Medical Center for an episode scheduled to air in the fall. Allen and his New York-based partner, Dr. Joshua Levine, each operated on one side of Franklin.

"If you can look online, you'll find it," Franklin said. "But if you're just told you have cancer and here are the alternatives, you might not look."

Franklin's story began in 1999 when she found a lump in her breast during a self-examination. Even though her mammogram six weeks earlier was clear, she went to the doctor to get the lump checked out. It was breast cancer.

She had both breasts removed. The cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, so she did not require radiation or chemotherapy.

Her first implants were silicone, but scar tissue soon developed, encapsulating the implants. Capsular contracture is when fibrous scar tissue forms a capsule around a foreign body as a defense mechanism.

"You can feel the skin pulling," she said. Her plastic surgeon removed the set and replaced them with mixed silicone and saline implants.

The same tightening developed with the second set of implants, Franklin said, so badly this time that the left one ruptured. The third set, too, began to tighten. Franklin began her research.

"He was a good surgeon," Franklin said, "but my body rejected the implants." He discussed with her the TRAM, or trans-rectus abdominus flap, procedure that takes skin from the abdomen to construct breasts. But Franklin, an athletic woman, did not have enough flesh on her abdomen.

Through Allen, she learned about other viable sites on the body for harvesting tissue. Franklin underwent the SGAP, or superior gluteal artery perforator, which takes tissue from the upper buttocks.

Allen said operating with a film crew was, for the most part, easy. The producer would occasionally ask him to explain what he was doing. The main difference was the producer's request that they not play music during the operation. Allen usually listens to New Orleans blues and jazz.

Allen was based in New Orleans with Levine before Hurricane Katrina drove them out. Allen ended up in Charleston, and Levine landed in New York. Within 10 days of the storm, Allen began operating at East Cooper Regional Medical Center, which is owned by the same company as Memorial Medical Center, where he worked in New Orleans.

Using a patient's own tissue provides several advantages, Allen said. The frequency of complications is reduced, and the tissue feels more natural. Within a week, Allen said, new blood vessels and nerve cells begin to grow.

Six days after surgery, Franklin said she already had more sensation than with implants.

"It's about having my own tissue," she said. "I feel whole again."

Abstract (Document Summary)

Franklin wanted other women to know their options, so she agreed to tell her story for the Discovery Health Channel show "Plastic Surgery: Before and After." On Aug. 8 a crew filmed the eight-hour surgery at the East Cooper Regional Medical Center for an episode scheduled to air in the fall. [Robert Allen] and his New York-based partner, Dr. Joshua Levine, each operated on one side of Franklin.

"He was a good surgeon," [Franklin] said, "but my body rejected the implants." He discussed with her the TRAM, or trans-rectus abdominus flap, procedure that takes skin from the abdomen to construct breasts. But Franklin, an athletic woman, did not have enough flesh on her abdomen.

Allen was based in New Orleans with Levine before Hurricane Katrina drove them out. Allen ended up in Charleston, and Levine landed in New York. Within 10 days of the storm, Allen began operating at East Cooper Regional Medical Center, which is owned by the same company as Memorial Medical Center, where he worked in New Orleans.

The Post and Courier StaffCredit: The Post and Courier, Section: YOUR COMMUNITY NEWS
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Author: Jill Coley at 937-5719 or jcoley@postandcourier.com
Date: Aug 18, 2006




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