What is DIEP Flap Surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery is designed to restore and rebuild your breast shape following mastectomy surgery which removes your breast tissue to treat or prevent breast cancer. DIEP flap breast reconstruction is an advanced form of breast reconstruction that uses your own lower abdominal tissue to create a soft, warm, natural breast mound which will last a lifetime.
What is DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction?
DIEP stands for the deep inferior epigastric perforator artery which runs through the lower abdomen and provides blood flow to the skin and fat. In a DIEP flap, fat, skin and blood vessels are removed from the lower abdominal wall and transplanted to the chest to rebuild the new breast mound using advanced microsurgical techniques. In a true DIEP flap, no rectus muscle is cut or removed. Because the muscle is not used, most women experience a faster recovery and have preserved abdominal wall muscle strength compared to more traditional TRAM flap procedures.
What are the Advantages of DIEP Reconstruction?
There are several benefits of using your own tissue for breast reconstruction. DIEP flap reconstruction is a powerful procedure which creates a soft, warm, “living” breast mound on the chest, with an acceptable long abdominal donor site scar that can often be hidden in the bikini line – similar to a “tummy tuck”. It also allows patients to avoid use of breast implants and provides for long lasting results that requires minimal revision surgery over time as the body ages.
Who is a Candidate for DIEP flap Reconstruction?
Patients who are generally healthy without major medical conditions and have enough tissue in their lower abdominal region are good candidates for DIEP flap reconstruction. Thin women who have minimal tummy tissue may not have enough volume to create two sizable breast mounds, and thus may require other surgical techniques or breast implants to restore their desired breast volume after bilateral mastectomy. The best way to determine if you are a candidate for DIEP flap reconstruction, is to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons to discuss your options.
Who can Perform DIEP Flap Surgery?
DIEP flap reconstruction is a highly specialized procedure which requires advanced surgical skill and expertise in microsurgery, and thus not all surgeons can offer the DIEP flap procedure and it’s not available at all hospitals. Drs. Mahabir and Kurtovic are both trained in microsurgery and have many years of experience performing DIEP flap breast reconstruction. They are excited to provide this special form of breast reconstruction to the Tucson community.
What is the Recovery Like?
DIEP flap reconstruction surgery takes place in the hospital and surgery lasts between 6-8 hours depending on if one or both breasts undergo reconstruction. After surgery, you will recover in the hospital for about 3 days. Our team utilizes enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols which have greatly improved the recovery process to minimize pain and allow for early discharge home after surgery. Because you have had surgery at two sites on your body (your chest and your abdomen), you will have to take care of multiple incisions: on your breast, your lower abdomen and around your belly button. You will go home with drains which will be removed in the clinic 1-2 weeks later. It usually takes 6-8 weeks to fully recover after DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery. You will be able to take walks every day, and this is encouraged. You will need some help around the house for the first several weeks after surgery, as you will have activity and lifting restrictions. Most patients return to normal activity levels by 6-8 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will discuss your recovery plan during your consultation.
Are Additional Procedures Needed after DIEP Flap Surgery?
Typically, 3 months after you have fully healed from your DIEP flap reconstruction surgery, your surgeon will discuss options for additional surgical procedures with the goal of refining your results. While these procedures are optional and not required, they are powerful adjuncts used to improve the aesthetics of the final reconstruction.
Sometimes, patient consider symmetry procedures such as a breast lift or reduction on the opposite native breast. Fat grafting is often performed to improve the contour of the DIEP flap or enhance DIEP flap volume. In thinner patients with minimal donor fat, an implant may be used to augment the DIEP flap volume. Nipple reconstruction is another surgical option that is offered to women who desire a projected nipple. In addition, 3D nipple areola tattooing is performed as the “finishing step” to create a lifelike nipple areola.
Schedule A Consultation to Learn More
Dr. Mahabir and Dr. Kurtovic are both highly skilled and qualified plastic surgeons with expertise in DIEP flap breast reconstruction. If you want to know more about the DIEP flap procedure and how our team can help, fill out our online form or call our Tucson office for an appointment.