Radiation effects on breast reconstruction with the deep inferior epigastric perforator flap.


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Abstract

Immediate breast reconstruction has important advantages over delayed reconstruction, including a shorter operative time and decreased psychological distress for the patient. However, the authors' experiences with the deep inferior epigastric perforator flap demonstrate variable aesthetic outcomes among patients who undergo radiation postoperatively. To establish an association between radiation and poor postoperative results, a matched-pairs analysis was conducted. Thirty irradiated patients were paired with 30 nonirradiated patients, according to age and body mass index. For each group, the incidence of fat necrosis, fibrosis/shrinkage, and flap contracture was recorded. In addition, an aesthetic evaluation was conducted to compare before-and-after images of 10 irradiated patients with those of 10 nonirradiated patients from similar time periods. The images were randomized and blindly evaluated by a panel of eight judges. A five-point scale was used to evaluate symmetry, aesthetic proportion, and the appearance of the superior pole. Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant difference in the score changes for irradiated and nonirradiated patients, according to all three criteria. Nonirradiated patient scores increased by one-half point, and irradiated patient scores decreased by one-half point. In addition, the incidences of fat necrosis, fibrosis, and flap contracture were all significantly higher among the irradiated group. These results suggest that when possible, reconstruction should be delayed until after radiation therapy is complete. Persons who smoke or are obese may be at particular risk for complications following radiation therapy.

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