The evolution of breast reconstruction: a historical perspective

World J Surg. 2012 Apr;36(4):730-42. doi: 10.1007/s00268-012-1450-2.


Plastic surgeons have been performing operations to improve the aesthetic aspect of the breast for centuries. Throughout ancient times, great controversy produced many theories of how breast cancer occurred and the best treatment. Because of beliefs that closure of mastectomy sites could conceal tumor recurrence, breast reconstruction did not gain wide acceptance until the mid-1900s. Today, plastic surgeons have a variety of techniques to reconstruct the breast. The first autologous muscle flap for breast reconstruction was the latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flap, described in 1896 by Iginio Tansini. The introduction of Carl Hartrampf's transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap and Robert J. Allen's deep inferior epigastric perforator flap have also provided excellent reconstructive options. With regard to augmentation, Vincenz Czerny attempted to enhance a woman's breast in 1895 with implantation of a lumbar lipoma. Soon after, surgeons used paraffin injections and polyvinylic alcohol sponge implantation, which yielded disastrous results. In 1961, Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow promoted the first silicone implant, paving the way for today's silicone and saline prototypes. Although reduction mammaplasty techniques had originated centuries earlier than mastopexy methods, the advancements of both have largely paralleled one another. In 1949, the Wise pattern was introduced to preoperatively plan safer and predictable outcomes in breast reductions. Efforts to minimize scars were achieved with Claude Lassus' introduction and Madeleine Lejour's subsequent modification of the vertical scar mammaplasty. In hopes of fostering an understanding of current post-mastectomy procedures and instilling passion for innovating future techniques, we provide a near-complete, surgically focused historical account of the primary contributors to breast reconstruction.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / history*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / history*
  • Mastectomy / history*
  • Surgical Flaps / blood supply
  • Surgical Flaps / history*
  • Treatment Outcome