Reconstruction and the Radiated Breast: Is There a Role for Implants?

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The use of breast implants in irradiated patients is controversial. Recently, 39 irradiated implants were compared with 338 nonirradiated implants in 297 patients between January of 1975 and October of 1994 at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Tissue expanders and follow-up time of less than 6 months excluded patients from the study. Five groups of patients were identified. Group 1 consisted of 7 patients and 7 implants who received postoperative adjuvant radiotherapy after implant placement. Group 2 consisted of 5 patients and 7 implants who received preoperative adjuvant radiotherapy prior to implant placement. Groups 3 and 4 consisted of 2 and 12 patients (2 and 19 implants) placed beneath latissimus dorsi flaps who had postoperative and preoperative adjuvant radiotherapy, respectively. Group 5 contained 4 patients with 4 implants placed beneath a transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap who had preoperative radiotherapy. All implants were placed submuscularly or beneath autogenous flaps. The average irradiated breast received 50 Gy.For statistical purposes, two categories were identified. Capsular contracture (Baker III or greater), pain, exposure, and implant removal in 6 of 14 implants that received radiotherapy were compared with similar complications in 33 of 266 implants without irradiation (p = 0.001). The second category contained 10 complications in 25 implants placed beneath autogenous reconstructions with radiotherapy compared with 6 of 72 similar complications in implants placed beneath autogenous reconstructions without radiotherapy (p = 0.000). Results showed that irradiation has significant negative effects on the reconstructive outcome with implants. Autogenous reconstruction did not appear to offer a protective role when placed over implants. Because of radiotherapy's negative influence, we would thus advocate autogenous breast reconstruction alone in patients who have undergone or are about to undergo radiotherapy.

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