Complications After Two-Stage Expander Implant Breast Reconstruction Requiring Reoperation: A Critical Analysis of Outcomes

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Abstract

Background

Two-stage expander implant breast reconstruction is commonly performed after mastectomy. Salvage and long-term outcomes after development of complications have not been well described. We examined a single surgeon's experience to study the rate of reoperation secondary to complications after first-stage expander placement and to evaluate their outcomes. Better understanding of salvage techniques may help guide future management.

Methods

We performed a retrospective analysis of consecutive patients who underwent placement of a tissue expander (TE) for breast reconstruction between December 2006 and August 2015 with the senior author. Patient demographics including age, body mass index, medical comorbidities, history of smoking, and history of radiation to the breast were collected. Surgical factors including timing of reconstruction (immediate vs delayed) and location of TE (total submuscular vs with acellular dermal matrix) were recorded. Complications were analyzed, as were patients who underwent reoperation in the setting of developing a complication.

Results

We analyzed 282 patients who underwent 453 implant-based breast reconstructions. Of these, 39 patients and 45 breasts required a reoperation after development of a postoperative complication. Return to the operating room was associated with higher body mass index (29 vs 24, P < 0.001), higher TE initial fill volume (299 mL vs 169 mL, P < 0.001), and preoperative radiation (31% vs 13%, P = 0.001). Complications resulting in reoperation included infection (60%), mastectomy skin necrosis (27%), and TE extrusion through thin mastectomy skin (11%). The affected TE was removed and exchanged in 17 patients (38%), autologous flap reconstruction occurred in 16 patients (36%), and TE was explanted without replacement in 12 patients (27%).

Conclusions

Infectious complications including cellulitis and abscess formation accounted for most cases requiring reoperation after TE placement for breast reconstruction. More than a quarter of patients who underwent a reoperation ultimately lost their implants. Patients undergoing two-stage expander implant breast reconstruction should be appropriately counseled regarding the possibility of requiring a reoperation in the setting of developing a complication.

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