DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction
If you’re considering mastectomy to treat or prevent breast cancer, you have an alternative to implants. The deep inferior epigastric perforator, or DIEP flap procedure, uses tissue harvested from your abdomen to reconstruct your breasts. The DIEP flap technique represents the most advanced method of breast reconstruction available today. The plastic surgeons at The Peer Group are pleased to offer this innovative option for breast reconstruction to patients throughout New Jersey at our practice near Morristown. If you have lost a breast through mastectomy or are considering a mastectomy, contact our practice online or by phone at 973.822.3000 to meet with one of our plastic surgeons and talk about your options.
Candidates for the DIEP Flap Method
Many patients seeking breast reconstruction qualify as good candidates for a DIEP flap, but the ultimate decision is made only after all of the reconstructive options are thoroughly discussed with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons. This is an important step because patients who cannot undergo a DIEP flap breast reconstruction are often eligible for other forms of reconstruction including tissue expander/implants and other skin/muscle flaps. The procedure is generally not recommended for women who have had previous abdominoplasty, are morbidly obese, or who may not tolerate extended general anesthesia. However, this leaves a vast population of women in need of breast reconstruction who can take advantage of this major advance in care for women who have undergone or are facing a mastectomy.
The DIEP flap procedure evolved from the earlier pedicled TRAM flap, a procedure which required skin and fat to be transferred to the patient’s chest while remaining attached to the rectus abdominis muscle that came with it. A DIEP flap breast reconstruction utilizes abdominal skin and fat to create a natural breast, or breasts. During a DIEP flap procedure, the plastic surgeon carefully works around the major arteries and other structures of the abdomen so that only the skin, fat, and vessels are transferred to the chest. This approach leaves the entire abdominal muscle in place, maintaining the core strength of the abdomen. The transplanted vessels are reconnected with blood vessels in the chest using meticulous, micro-surgical techniques. In most cases, the DIEP flap procedure eliminates the need for tissue expanders and breast implants. In the long term, the resulting scar on the abdomen is similar to that for a tummy tuck. Patients are highly satisfied with their results, which look and feel quite natural.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect during recuperation?
Recuperation after a DIEP flap procedure is similar to that of the previous TRAM method. DIEP flap procedure doesn’t remove your abdominal muscles. you can still expect some soreness and discomfort. You should feel well enough to get back to light activities, including work, in about 2-4 weeks. Your surgeon will offer you a more detailed outline of your anticipated recuperation during your consultation and subsequent pre-op appointments.
Can I use the DIEP approach to reconstruct one breast now and the other later?
Due to the nature of the DIEP flap procedure, harvesting tissue from the abdomen may be done only once. Therefore, it’s important to decide whether you want to reconstruct one or both breasts prior to your surgery. If you choose to reconstruct one breast after a single mastectomy and later require a second mastectomy, you may need an implant or other alternative method to reconstruct the second breast.
What will my abdomen look like after surgery?
One pleasant ancillary benefit of DIEP flap reconstruction is the improvement in the abdomen. Because the surgery uses fat, and skin gathered from the abdomen, the results are often similar to those of tummy tuck surgery. Your abdomen will be flatter and smoother, and you may notice that you look better in your favorite clothes. Although the DIEP flap procedure creates a long horizontal scar, our board-certified plastic surgeons typically make it as low on the abdomen as possible to ensure it can be concealed beneath clothing and swimwear.