Prospective Evaluation of Obese Patients Undergoing Autologous Abdominal Free Flap Breast Reconstruction


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Abstract

Background:Obesity has been viewed as a relative contraindication against autologous free flap breast reconstruction because of increased risks of complications, including flap loss.Methods:The authors conducted a prospective analysis of obese patients undergoing autologous breast reconstruction.Results:Overall, 72 patients (average age, 48.5 years; average body mass index, 35.7 kg/m2) underwent abdominal free flap breast reconstruction. There were 43 bilateral reconstructions and the remainder were unilateral (n = 115 flaps). There were 67 muscle-sparing transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flaps (58.3 percent), 44 deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flaps (38.2 percent), two free bipedicle DIEP flaps, one superficial inferior epigastric perforator flap, and one free TRAM flap. Forty-two patients (58.3 percent) had prior radiation, and 51 (70.8 percent) had prior chemotherapy. Forty-three patients (59.7 percent) underwent delayed reconstruction and 21 (29.2 percent) underwent immediate reconstruction. Eight patients (11.1 percent) had bilateral reconstruction, with one breast reconstructed in an immediate and the other in a delayed fashion. Half of the patients (n = 36) had mesh placed in an underlay fashion to reinforce the donor site. Regarding breast complications, there were 11 wound dehiscences, one hematoma, one infection, and two patients with mastectomy skin flap necrosis. Twelve patients had donor-site wound healing complications, there were four infections, and three patients developed a bulge/hernia. There were no flap losses. Comparison to historic controls demonstrated no significant differences in overall flap loss rates (p = 0.061) or donor-site bulge/hernia (p = 0.86).Conclusion:Autologous abdominal free flaps can be performed safely in obese patients without increased risks for donor-site bulge/hernia or flap loss compared to nonobese patients; however, patients should be counseled carefully regarding the potential risks of complications.CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:Therapeutic, IV

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