Breast reconstruction following a mastectomy can be complicated and emotional. It’s important to know your surgical options when it’s time for reconstruction. One surgical procedure that may be a viable possibility is the DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap procedure.
Advanced Microsurgery Uses Patient’s Own Tissue
The DIEP flap procedure is an advanced microsurgical technique in breast reconstruction that utilizes the body’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast. Skin, fat and blood vessels are surgically removed from the wall of the lower abdomen and relocated to a patient’s chest using microsurgery in order to help restore a natural soft breast following a mastectomy. This procedure is designed to preserve and not damage the abdominal muscles. Therefore, this technique spares the patient extra recovery that is often necessary with procedures like the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominus) Flap, which uses the entire muscle in your lower abdomen. The Diep Flap procedure also reduces the risk of abdominal hernia and bulge formation that could occur after a traditional TRAM procedure.
DIEP Flap Surgery Has Several Benefits
This type of reconstruction has several benefits. First, the consistency of the abdominal tissue is similar to natural breast tissue, so many patients choose this route because of the realistic feel we’re achieving. Also, women who undergo the DIEP flap reconstruction also benefit from improved abdominal contouring, much like a tummy tuck. Because we utilize the body’s own tissue, there is very little risk of infection or rejection. Here’s what Sharon Ludwig, one of my patients, has to say about her experience with DIEP flap reconstruction.
Some Things to Consider
Most women are good candidates for the DIEP flap procedure, but there are still things to consider when choosing this option. Women undergoing this surgical option must be in good physical health. They should not be smokers, have uncontrolled diabetes or connective tissue or blood vessel diseases, as these disorders may affect blood circulation and, therefore, recovery. Healthy blood supply to the new breast is critical to the success of the surgery. Patients who are generally not good candidates are those who do not have enough extra abdominal tissue or women who have had prior abdominal surgeries with extensive incisions on the abdomen such as a tummy tuck. Patients should also not be excessively overweight because this can cause problems with recovery from surgery and wound healing.
Also, keep in mind that the DIEP procedure is still a relatively new advancement in breast reconstruction, so it is important to find an experienced surgeon. There are many options to restore the breast after mastectomy. A consultation with a plastic surgeon is necessary to assess what’s best for you.
Dr. Jamal Bullocks is a board-certified Plastic Surgery specialist whose clinical interests include reconstructive breast surgery, cosmetic surgery for men and women and body contouring after weight loss.