I have been re-reading comments from my Breast Necrosis Photos article and I realized that I have to address this topic in MUCH more depth. I gave this article such a vague title because a couple commenters on the aforementioned article used the term “excise” for the non-surgical removal of necrotic breast tissue.
Excise means “to remove by cutting”. That is the least common use of the word “excise”. It also means to erase or remove by crossing out. I’m not sure how many surgeons are actually using the word “excise” in relation to the actual removal of necrotic tissue.
My experience was different. The nurses always used the term “Debridement” when talking about removing my necrotic tissue. Debridement is defined as : surgical removal of foreign material and dead tissue from a wound.
So I suppose you could say they mean the same thing. The definition of debridement, in my opinion, sounds much less violent and painful. I’m guessing that’s why more medical professionals use it instead of excising. No one wants to have things cut off of us. It conjures up really frightening imagery.
I know it sounds downright terrifying to be told that your surgeon is going to remove the necrotic tissue. I know this because I was terrified beyond belief, myself. I want to reassure you, dear reader, that it does NOT hurt. It is in NO WAY painful. And while the entire situation is horrendous beyond my ability to describe, you will not feel anything beyond a tugging or pulling sensation while it is being done.
My advice: Don’t look while it’s being done. Bring your MP3 player and listen to something that will keep your focus off the process. Focus on breathing deeply and slowly. Think about something that makes you feel calm and at ease…a favorite vacation spot or a happy memory. Put all your focus on that.
The Procedure: The day I had my debridement done I came in to the exam room and they had me sit in the big chair with the surgical-style light over it. It looks kind of like a dentists chair but more comfortable.
To my right was a tray with a few instruments: Forceps, surgical scissors, a kidney-shaped tray, gauze, a scalpel and a few other things. The scalpel scared the hell out of me because I was anticipating pain already.
When the scalell was unpackaged from it’s sterile holder, I closed my eyes and started breathing deeply, focusing on trying not to cry or panic. Then they turned on the very bright surgical light above me. The nurse told me very softly that they were starting and all I was going to feel was some tugging. She urged me to try to relax and reassured me that it would be over with soon.
She was right. Since the tissue they removed was dead, there was nothing (no nerves) to transmit pain signals. I heard the occasional metallic snip of surgical scissors and felt some tugging and pulling, but there was NO PAIN.
As terrifying as debridement or excise sounds, as horrifying as having dead tissue removed from my body was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounded. When it was all over there was a bed of healthy tissue so that I could start healing properly without the interference of the necrotic tissue.