In terms of present day breast reconstruction, there are two types of procedures women can choose from: implant based reconstruction or soft tissue based reconstruction. Implant based breast reconstruction is the most common and is often the most convenient when it comes to recovery and downtime. However, soft tissue reconstruction in the form of a DIEP flap surgical procedure is a great alternative. There are many advantages to this technique, but the procedure and recovery time is much longer than an implant based reconstruction. Continue reading to see if DIEP flap surgery might be a good fit for you!
What is DIEP Flap?
DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric artery Perforator) flap surgery is an autologous surgery, meaning tissue from other parts of the body is used to complete the reconstruction. Specifically for this reconstruction, a portion of skin, fat, and blood vessels is taken from the lower abdomen to recreate the breast.
The DIEP flap surgery typically takes about six to eight hours. An incision is made in the lower abdomen, from which the surgeon will remove the portion of skin, fatty tissue, and blood vessels. The abdominal incision is closed by pulling down the abdomen skin, and then the belly button is repositioned to naturally fit the improved contour. The skin, fatty tissue, and blood vessels are moved to the chest, and the blood vessels in the flap are connected to those found within the chest to allow the flap to remain a healthy and functioning new part of the breast. This procedure can be used to reconstruct one or both breasts.
The Advantages of DIEP Flap
DIEP flap surgery has several advantages compared to an implant based reconstruction. The results of a soft tissue based reconstruction, like DIEP flap, are both more natural appearing and feeling for the patient. As Dr. Garza says, the tissue “continues to grow and age with you.” Additionally, the patient gets a free “tummy tuck” out of the procedure.
Another tissue based reconstruction that continues to be popular among surgeons and patients is the TRAM flap reconstruction, but the DIEP surgery comes with fewer risks. During a TRAM reconstruction, abdominal muscles in addition to skin, fat, and blood vessels are removed from the abdomen to reconstruct the breast. By preserving the abdominal muscles in a DIEP surgery, patients have less postoperative pain, less post-surgical abdominal wall weakness, and a decreased risk of hernia formation.
What to Expect After Surgery
DIEP flap surgery is not for everyone. After the procedure, you will usually stay in the hospital for about five days and the recovery period can take up to eight weeks, roughly double the recovery time of an implant based reconstruction. Because DIEP flap surgery involves two sites on your body, the time it will take for your body to fully recover will be longer compared to someone getting a mastectomy alone, for example. However, it is super important to allow the time your body needs to heal. You will have surgical drains that will remain for one to two weeks after surgery depending on whether one or two breasts are reconstructed. You will have to avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, and sexual activity during your recovery period. Additionally, your doctor will advise you to start stretching exercises after you have reached a certain point in your recovery period.
Visit Garza Plastic Surgery today in Belle Meade, TN to discuss whether or not DIEP flap surgery is a good fit for you. If not, we can offer a variety of alternatives and answer any questions you may have to help find the best solution for your goals and medical needs. Call us today at (615) 620-7800.