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Poland Syndrome and Reconstructive Surgery

Straight Talk about Poland Syndrome and Reconstructive Surgery

Though rare and twice as common in men than their female counterparts, Poland Syndrome affects roughly 1 in 20,000 newborns. Here, we talk about the traits of the condition and various treatment options for women affected by the disfiguring disorder.

First defined by Sir Alfred Poland in 1841, Poland Syndrome is a rare condition that is usually, but not always, evidenced at birth. Associated with visually unsettling, physical abnormalities that tend to be extremely variable from person to person but are commonly characterized by an underdeveloped and/or
lack of pectoral muscle on either side of the body or absence of breastbone. Poland Syndrome is a rather peculiar, congenital condition that causes structural and aesthetic asymmetry of the underlying chest/pectoral muscles, resulting in a “lopsided” look that often leaves the person afflicted with the condition with feelings of insecurity, indignity, and other emotional challenges. Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment and reconstructive surgery options available to women with Poland Syndrome.

Poland Syndrome: Signs and Symptoms

The most common traits of the peculiar disorder are as follows:

  • Missing/underdeveloped chest and/or shoulder muscles
  • Abnormal rib cage development that can lead to potential breathing issues
  • Breast and nipple deformity/asymmetry
  • Webbed fingers or toes

Balancing Act:  The Best Treatment Options for Correcting Poland Syndrome

Reconstructive surgery, or plastic surgery, is the only viable, long-term reversal of Poland Syndrome and usually requires using the body’s existing chest wall muscles to fill in the missing/underdeveloped areas or “grafting” ribs by moving them to their anatomically correct position.  For women with Poland Syndrome, the disorder may not be readily apparent until puberty is reached, and breasts begin to develop.  While natural, normally developed breasts are not actually equal in size, the size disparity is imperceptible and completely typical – just like your eyebrows!  With Poland Syndrome, there is a stark, unequivocal imbalance between the breasts. 

Here are the most common surgical options:

  • Breast Implant Surgery – An artificial breast implant is strategically placed to fill the absence or underdevelopment of breast tissue on the asymmetrical side.  
  • Muscle Implants – Custom-shaped “pectoral” implant muscles are uniquely designed to fill, contour, and sculpt the chest wall affected by Poland Syndrome.  Though this procedure is primarily performed on men, women have undergone this procedure, as well, with amazing, life-changing results.
  • Fat Grafting – With or without liposuction or fat transfer, this painstaking technique takes tissue from other areas of the body to sculpt, shape, correct, and contour the affected area to visually match the “normal” breast.  

Additional surgical techniques may include muscle flapping, nipple reconstruction, and tissue expanders to achieve permanent, desired aesthetic.  A customized, cosmetic surgery plan may use any combination of the aforementioned for best results.  Women with Poland Syndrome are highly advised to wait until after the breasts have fully developed before entertaining any inclination of surgical intervention to correct abnormalities.  Since the disorder varies greatly from individual to individual, no two cases are alike, and each patient should expect a fully customized approach that may necessitate multiple surgeries for symmetrical success.  

For a complete diagnosis, full medical evaluation, and initial consultation regarding treatment options, please contact our office representatives to set up a time and day to meet with Dr. Jamie Schwartz.

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