This article presents our technique of autologous breast reconstruction using the latissimus dorsi flap and studies the advantages, disadvantages, and results that can be expected. A consecutive sample of 100 patients was studied. The average length of follow-up was 20 months (range 8 to 44 months), and all of the subjects were reviewed in consultation without loss to follow-up. The supplementary volume of the latissimus dorsi was obtained from five fatty zones: fat on the cutaneous paddle, fat taken from the surface of the muscle, the scapular fat pad, the anterior fatty zone, and the supra-iliac fat pad. This technique must be measured against the transverse rectus abdominis muscle (TRAM) flap, free or pedicled, when the patient needs an autologous breast reconstruction. It can be used when the TRAM flap is contraindicated (this corresponds to 45 percent of patients of our sample) or when the dorsal donor site is preferred (55 percent of cases of our sample).
The major complications are rare (1 percent partial necrosis and 1 percent total necrosis of the flap). The minor complications are represented mainly by the dorsal seroma. This is the main drawback of the technique, as it occurs in 79 percent of cases and regularly in obese patients. In view of this frequency, patients should be warned of its likely occurrence. The dorsal donor-site morbidity is relatively low; 4 percent of dorsal sequelae were classed as moderate, and 96 percent were considered low. The scapular sequelae have been classed as low in 97 percent of cases, and temporary scapular sequelae aggravation has been noted in 3 percent.
Results of breast reconstruction using this technique are most encouraging. The level of patient satisfaction is high; 87 percent of them were deeply satisfied, 10 percent were satisfied, and only 3 percent were poorly satisfied. This group of poorly satisfied subjects (3 percent) consists of patients who suffered a serious postoperative complication. The aesthetic results have been judged excellent by surgeons in 85 percent of the cases, good in 12 percent of the cases, and poor in 3 percent of the cases; no result has been judged bad.
This technique of breast reconstruction by autologous latissimus dorsi brings a major advance in breast reconstruction. The best indications of this technique are when one can bury the cutaneous paddle: cases of skin-sparing mastectomy, cases where the latissimus dorsi flap can be combined with an abdominal advancement flap, and cases of conversion of implant reconstruction to an autologous reconstruction. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 102: 1461, 1998.)