A surgical procedure gaining attention across the country may provide a safer, more natural alternative to silicone gel breast implants.

Using a patient’s own tissue is far superior to current artificial implant procedures. The tissue is not rejected, sensation returns to the breast, which never occurs with implants, and you avoid the potential complication of leakage and disfiguring scar formation. The procedure is being used primarily for women who have mastectomies and those who have had problems with breast implants. But as the technique, known as the microvascular free flap, is perfected and more surgeons are trained, it someday could be an alternative to implants for women who want to enlarge their breasts for cosmetic reasons. The development is important especially in light of the controversy over silicone gel implants, which critics say are harmful to women when the implants leak. An advisory panel of the FDA recommended in February that silicone gel implants be permitted only for reconstructive surgery, not for cosmetic reason. I think that as more women are looking for alternatives to implant surgery, it’s definitely something that’s going to be getting more attention.

Plastic surgeons more commonly are performing a similar type of reconstructive surgery using the women’s own tissue. The conventional flap technique involves using tissue from the women’s abdomen that is still attached to the abdominal muscle to form a breast.

Technique involves completely detaching a section, or flap, of tissue, then reattaching it to the upper body and reconnecting the tiny blood vessels with the aid of a microscope.