How Big is Too Big: Pushing the Obesity Limits in Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction

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PurposeObesity is a major public health concern in the United States, affecting nearly 79 million people. There have been promising results performing microvascular breast reconstruction in patients with obesity; however, the definition of obesity is often poorly defined or does not extend above a body mass index (BMI) of 35. Our goal was to examine outcomes of microvascular breast reconstruction in this questionably more risky population.MethodsA retrospective review from 2013 to 2016 was performed of 2 surgeons' experience with abdominally based microvascular breast reconstructions. Women were categorized by BMI into the following groups: normal (18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (25.1–29.0 kg/m2), class I (30.0–34.9 kg/m2), class II (35.0–39.9 kg/m2), and class III (>40 kg/m2). Demographics included history of tobacco use, breast cancer diagnosis, adjuvant care, and comorbidities. Complications evaluated included donor site (delayed wound healing, fat necrosis, dehiscence, infection, abdominal hernia/bulge, and seroma), recipient site (delayed wound healing and fat necrosis), and need for reoperation. Statistical analyses were performed using analysis of variance and χ2 test.ResultsA total of 90 women (117 breasts) underwent microsurgical breast reconstruction using abdominal tissue. Twenty-seven women (48 breasts) met criteria for class II and class III obesity (BMI 35–53). Mean follow-up was 24 months. No statistically significant difference was found in demographics among all groups. There was a trend toward variability in overall complications across the BMI groups (P = 0.149). Donor site complications had a significant variation across the different BMI groups (P = 0.016). The rate of donor site complications was similar in class II (8/14) and class III (7/13) obese women. Recipient site complications were similar across the BMI groups.ConclusionsWe found obese women to have a higher rate of abdominal donor site complications; however, this risk seems to level off at class I or II obesity. We have modified our surgical technique of managing the abdominal donor site to optimize our outcomes in the morbidly obese patient population.

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