Bilateral Free Flap Breast Reconstruction Outcomes: Do Abdominal Scars Affect Bilateral Flaps?

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The incidence of bilateral mastectomies is increasing along with the rates of breast reconstructions. A substantial number of patients will present with abdominal scars after Cesarean section, laparoscopy, laparotomy, and so on. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of prior abdominal scars on complication rates in abdominal bilateral free flap breast reconstruction.


All consecutive patients with autologous free flap breast reconstruction between 2007 and 2014 were eligible. The relevant demographic and clinical data were prospectively collected into a study-specific database. Complications and reoperations were prospectively registered after postoperative outpatient visits.


Overall, 493 patients underwent abdominally based breast reconstruction during the study period: unilateral (n = 250; 50.7%) or bilateral (n = 243; 49.3%). In the bilateral group, the abdominal scar locations were Pfannenstiel (n = 73; 30.1%), midline (n = 16; 6.6%), lower oblique (n = 17; 7.0%), upper oblique (n = 5; 2.1%), and laparoscopic (n = 69; 28.4%). Four (1.7%) flap failures (including 1 converted to a pedicled transverse rectus abdominis flap) were registered, all occurring in patients from the scar group: 3 with Pfannenstiel incision and 1 patient with prior laparoscopy. Pfannenstiel scar was associated with higher risk of hematoma at the recipient site when compared with no scar group (13.7% versus 2.2%; P = 0.006). Partial flap necrosis, infection, and seroma occurred in 14 (5.9%), 8 (3.4%), and 5 (2.1%) patients, respectively, and no differences between the scar groups were identified.


Surgical outcomes of bilateral reconstructions in patients with abdominal scars are generally comparable with ones in patients without prior surgery; however, some problems have been identified. These procedures might have some intraoperative considerations and often require increased operative times. Apart from the traditional preoperative computed tomography angiography, intraoperative imaging (e.g., fluorescence angiography) may be advocated in patients with abdominal scars.

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