A 10-Year Retrospective Review of 758 DIEP Flaps for Breast Reconstruction

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This study examined 758 deep inferior epigastric perforator flaps for breast reconstruction, with respect to risk factors and associated complications. Risk factors that demonstrated significant association with any breast or abdominal complication included smoking (p = 0.0000), postreconstruction radiotherapy (p = 0.0000), and hypertension (p = 0.0370). Ninety-eight flaps (12.9 percent) developed fat necrosis. Associated risk factors were smoking (p = 0.0226) and postreconstruction radiotherapy (p = 0.0000). Interestingly, as the number of perforators increased, so did the incidence of fat necrosis. There were only 19 cases (2.5 percent) of partial flap loss and four cases (0.5 percent) of total flap loss. Patients with 45 flaps (5.9 percent) were returned to the operating room before the second-stage procedure. Patients with 29 flaps (3.8 percent) were returned to the operating room because of venous congestion. Venous congestion and any complication were observed to be statistically unrelated to the number of venous anastomoses. Overall, postoperative abdominal hernia or bulge occurred after only five reconstructions (0.7 percent). Complication rates in this large series were comparable to those in retrospective reviews of pedicle and free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flaps. Previous studies of the free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap described breast complication rates ranging from 8 to 13 percent and abdominal complication rates ranging from 0 to 82 percent. It was noted that, with experience in microsurgical techniques and perforator selection, the deep inferior epigastric perforator flap offers distinct advantages to patients, in terms of decreased donor-site morbidity and shorter recovery periods. Mastery of this flap provides reconstructive surgeons with more extensive options for the treatment of postmastectomy patients.

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