DIEP flap breast surgery is a highly specialized procedure in which the plastic surgeon transfers a patient's abdominal skin and tissue to the chest to recreate the breast mound. A widely accepted reconstruction option for individuals who have undergone a mastectomy and those with congenital breast abnormalities, the procedure has its pros and cons.
Why Go in For DIEP Flap Reconstruction?
This breast reconstructionmethod takes its name from the deep inferior epigastric perforator abdominal blood vessels. The surgery involves the removal of a free flap made up of abdominal skin and subcutaneous tissue from the abdomen to the chest. A new breast is constructed from this tissue. This procedure has several advantages over other breast reconstruction surgery options:
- DIEP flap transfer spares the abdominal muscle. This is an advancement over the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous) flap which also removes abdominal muscle. By preserving stomach muscle, DIEP flap surgery minimizes the chances of hernia so that the patient can resume daily activities, lift weights, and so on.
- As this surgery involves the transfer of abdominal skin and fat, it tightens the abdominal region and offers the effects of a tummy tuck.
- There is a reduced risk of problems such as asymmetry and the need for surgical replacement associated with breast implants. So donor site morbidity is minimized.
- The nipple and areola can be reconstructed simultaneously with breast mound construction or later.
- As the procedure uses the patient's own skin and tissue, chances of rejection by the body are eliminated. The results are also more natural looking.
- If nerves are also transferred along with the skin and blood vessels, the patient has a chance of regaining sensation in her breasts with the passage of time.
- There is less pain, and recovery is quicker. Hospital stay is just 3-4 days and the patient can get back to daily routine in 4-5 weeks, and sports and demanding activities in 3-4 months.
- The procedure can be performed immediately after a mastectomy, so that patient trauma is reduced.
- It is also the ideal procedure for delayed reconstruction of a large, droopy breast
DIEP flap reconstruction also ensures durable, long-term results leading to better patient satisfaction.
Some of the objections raised are that DIEP flap takes 6-8 hours which is more time than that needed to perform than a TRAM flap. This is because the plastic surgeon has to carefully reconnect all the tiny blood vessels. Further, there would be two scars as flaps are taken from both sides of the abdomen. Another drawback is that if the blood supply to the flap is interrupted, the procedure would fail and further surgery may be needed.
Ensuring Success with DIEP Flap Surgery
It is obvious that the pros of DIEP flap breast surgery outweigh its cons. To ensure the best results, make sure that you have the procedure done by a surgeon skilled in microsurgery. Contact an established, board-certified plastic surgeon experienced in performing this particular type of reconstruction surgery. Ensure that the surgical facility is AAAASF-certified. A little caution will ensure you are in the right hands and that your breast reconstruction surgery is successful.