Using the Retrograde Internal Mammary System for Stacked Perforator Flap Breast Reconstruction: 71 Breast Reconstructions in 53 Consecutive Patients

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Abdominal tissue is the preferred donor source for autologous breast reconstruction, but in select patients with inadequate tissue, additional volume must be recruited to achieve optimal outcomes. Stacked flaps are an effective approach in these cases, but can be limited by the need for adequate recipient vessels. This article reports outcomes for the use of the retrograde internal mammary system for stacked flap breast reconstruction in a large number of consecutive patients.


Fifty-three patients underwent stacked autologous tissue breast reconstruction with a total of 142 free flaps. Thirty patients underwent unilateral stacked deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap reconstruction, five had unilateral stacked profunda artery perforator flap reconstruction, one had bilateral stacked DIEP/superior gluteal artery perforator flap reconstruction, and 17 underwent bilateral stacked DIEP/profunda artery perforator flap reconstruction. In all cases, the antegrade and retrograde internal mammary vessels were used for anastomoses. In situ manometry studies were also conducted comparing the retrograde internal mammary arteries in 10 patients to the corresponding systemic pressures.


There were three total flap losses (97.9 percent flap survival rate), two partial flap losses, four reexplorations for venous congestion, and three patients with operable fat necrosis. The mean weight of the stacked flaps for each reconstructed breast was 622.8 g. The retrograde internal mammary mean arterial pressures were on average 76.6 percent of the systemic mean arterial pressures.


The results demonstrate that the retrograde internal mammary system is capable of independently supporting free tissue transfer. These vessels provide for convenient dissection and improved efficiency of these cases, with successful postsurgical outcomes.


Therapeutic, IV.

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