DIEP flap surgery stands for deep inferior epigastric artery perforator surgery. This procedure takes tissue from other parts of the body to reconstruct the breast. A specialized DIEP flap surgeon in Nashville will take skin, fat, and blood vessels from the lower abdomen to recreate the shape of the breast.
DIEP flap surgery is a breast reconstruction method that gives the patient a more natural look and feeling. Also, because this surgery uses tissue from the abdomen, patients will see a slight slimming in their tummy. This is why many people say a DIEP flap surgery provides the benefits of a tummy tuck. DIEP flap surgery also offers the potential benefit of returning sensation to the reconstructed breast.
IS DIEP FLAP SURGERY A GOOD OPTION FOR ME?
Many candidates have questions about what qualifies them for the DIEP Flap procedure. One of the most common concerns relates to previous abdominal surgeries, especially cesarean section birth, or C Section. Usually, one or two C Sections will not impact DIEP Flap. In fact, a plastic surgeon can take the donor tissue off of the top of the abdominal muscles so it will not disturb anything else. Below are a couple of things you should consider before DIEP flap.
You should be in good health at the time of your procedure. When you meet with Dr. Garza for your initial consultation, you should review your medical history thoroughly. You should review any health risks like allergies, history of smoking, and especially any previous procedures for breast cancer treatment.
Another concern relates to receiving radiation therapy for breast cancer. One side effect of radiation therapy is a condition called fibrosis, which occurs when non-cancerous cells sustain damage during radiation treatment.
Because of the hardened scar tissue, some plastic surgeons have turned away candidates for breast reconstruction saying that the remaining tissue might be too firm to use in the reconstruction.
With DIEP flap, however, that’s not a necessary concern. We’re able to solely use soft tissue to restore volume to the breast.
Also, if you don’t have enough tissue around your tummy, we can take tissue from another donor area such as the buttocks or the thigh. This is also referred to as a free flap or fat transfer.
DIEP FLAP SURGERY FAQs
HOW MANY HOURS IS DIEP FLAP SURGERY?
DIEP flap surgery is a major surgical procedure and requires special training in order to be performed. To reconstruct one breast, it usually takes between 3-4 hours to complete. For both breasts, it will usually take about 6-7 hours. You can also receive DIEP flap surgery immediately after a mastectomy.
If you plan to receive a mastectomy before your DIEP flap surgery, expect to add 1-2 hours per mastectomy.
WHAT DOES DIEP FLAP RECOVERY LOOK LIKE?
DIEP flap surgery can mean longer downtime than other breast reconstruction procedures. After the procedure, you can expect to stay in the hospital for recovery for around five days. You may spend eight weeks recovering and resting at home.
In addition to rest, you will need to wear supportive clothing to help the reconstructed breast heal properly. Dr. Garza, a DIEP flap surgeon in Nashville, will instruct you on which brands of clothing to wear after your surgery.
An implant-based reconstruction may only take around four weeks, in contrast. You will have surgical drains on your body at both surgical sites for one to two weeks after surgery. When you have healed enough, your doctor will recommend at-home stretching exercises to help your body fully recover.
HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF BED AFTER DIEP FLAP SURGERY?
If you’ve had DIEP flap surgical breast reconstruction on only one side of your body, it is very important to avoid putting stress on the operated side of your body. To get out of bed safely:
Bend your knees.
Let your knees fall over to your side that was no operated on and let your knees hand over the side of the bed.
Slide your lower legs off of the bed.
Use your good arm to push yourself up into a sitting position.
Plant your feet on the floor and stand up.
HOW LONG UNTIL I CAN SLEEP ON MY SIDE AFTER DIEP FLAP SURGERY?
Until your breasts have healed sufficiently, you must avoid putting any strain on the reconstructed breasts. Most patients can expect to start sleeping on their side again at least four weeks post-operation.
Are There Other Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Yes! In fact, we offer a few different options at Garza Plastic Surgery in Nashville, TN. Some of these differ depending on the type of reconstruction you need. DIEP flap surgery solely focuses on restoring volume, but it does not include nipple reconstruction. However, we do offer nipple and areola reconstruction surgery as a separate option.
We also offer breast implant surgery, with two different types of breast implants. We offer saline-filled implants and silicone gel “gummy bear” implants.
What are the Risks of DIEP Flap Surgery?
Occasionally, there can be some fluid build-up after the procedure. This is why there are surgical drains placed around the treatment sites.
Additionally, some patients may experience scarring or lumping in the reconstructed breast. If scar tissue builds up, there can be some loss of feeling in the new breast. Finally, there is a small risk that patients can develop a condition called tissue necrosis. This occurs when the donated soft tissue is rejected and begins to die off.
If you are worried about tissue necrosis, careful monitoring and check-ups will help you catch any signs. If necrosis occurs, a plastic surgeon can remove the decayed tissue. After removal, you should wait for about one year before receiving another reconstruction surgery.
Is a DIEP Flap Surgery the Same As a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is another name for a plastic surgery procedure called abdominoplasty. This procedure focuses on removing unwanted fat cells, reinforce the abdominal muscles, and tighten loose skin. When compared to DIEP flap surgery, the tissue taken from the abdomen is only used to reconstruct the breast mound. Not as much attention is given to tightening and strengthening the skin or abdominal muscles.
So, while you may see some slimming and toning in the abdominal area after a DIEP flap surgery, a full tummy tuck surgery will provide better and more focused results.
Dr. Robert Garza
DIEP FLAP SURGEON
Dr. Garza is a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction surgery in Nashville. As a specialized DIEP flap surgeon, he’s worked with many patients in their breast cancer journey to achieve the best results for each individual. DIEP flap surgery isn’t always what’s best or recommended for everyone. If you’re considering breast reconstruction and curious about what is best for you, be sure to consult with your plastic surgeon to learn more.