Deep inferior epigastric perforator flap for breast reconstruction: experience with 43 flaps

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Abstract

Background

In the past decade, there has been increasing breast reconstructions after mastectomy. The ideal material for reconstruction of a breast is fat and skin. The transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap has been the gold standard for breast reconstruction until recently. Abdominal wall function is a major concern for plastic surgeons in breast reconstruction with TRAM flaps. The deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) free flap spares the whole rectus abdominis muscle, includes skin and fat only, and therefore preserves adequate abdominal wall competence. The aim of this study was to summarize our experience in breast reconstruction with DIEP flap.

Methods

Between March 2000 and August 2005, a total of 43 breast reconstructions were performed on 40 patients by our surgeons using DIEP flap (3 patients had bilateral procedures), 14 of them were immediate surgeries and 26 were delayed. Abdominal function, satisfaction with the donor site and reconstructed breast, and the sensation recovery was assessed respectively during follow-up.

Results

The mean age of the patients was 38.6 years (range, 28—50). The size of the flaps was 11 cm×26 cm in average (height 10 — 12 cm, width 15 — 33 cm). The mean length of the vascular pedicles was 9.3 cm (range, 7 — 12). The patients were followed up for a mean of 16 months (range, 6—30 months). During the follow-up, 2 (5%) patients had total flap loss, 2 (5%) had partial necrosis, 4 (9%) had wound edge necrosis in the abdomen, and 1 had axillary seroma. None of the patients had hernia, and all of them were able to resume their daily activities after the operation. Patient satisfaction with the reconstructed breast rated high, 95% of the patients achieved spontaneous return of sensation in the reconstructed breast, but none of them had a sensation equivalent or approximate to the normal.

Conclusions

The DIEP flap has the same benefits as the TRAM flap without destroying the continuity of the rectus muscle. It can reduce donor-site morbidity and provide an aesthetic refinement in breast reconstruction.

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