Clinical and Quantitative Isokinetic Comparison of Abdominal Morbidity and Dynamics following DIEP versus Muscle-Sparing Free TRAM Flap Breast Reconstruction

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Background:The deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap, which is a modification of the muscle-sparing free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap, is being more frequently used in an effort to reduce postoperative abdominal morbidity. However, there is no consensus as to which of these flaps is superior. The authors aimed to compare quantitative measurements of abdominal function obtained with an isokinetic dynamometer after DIEP and muscle-sparing free TRAM flap elevation.Methods:Patients who underwent unilateral single-pedicled DIEP (n = 42) or muscle-sparing free TRAM flap (n = 36) breast reconstruction performed by a single surgeon were included in this study. Preoperative and postoperative trunk flexion parameters were measured prospectively using an isokinetic dynamometer in all patients. The occurrence of postoperative pain, stiffness, and bulging along with patient activity level were also investigated.Results:At 3 months postoperatively, abdominal functions were decreased in both groups, with a larger decline in the muscle-sparing free TRAM flap group. However, at 6 months postoperatively, abdominal muscle function recovered to preoperative levels in both groups. These findings were consistent with the absence of a statistically significant difference in patient postoperative abdominal pain and stiffness, activity level, and the incidence of bulging between the two groups at 6 months postoperatively.Conclusion:From these results, we propose that the surgeon can select the muscle-sparing free TRAM flap, without hesitation or concern regarding abdominal morbidity, when a thick and reliable perforator does not exist and multiple thin perforators must be incorporated.CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:Therapeutic, III.

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