DIEP Flap Reconstruction: Breast Reconstruction According To The Experts

DIEP Flap ReconstructionPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

What is DIEP flap breast reconstruction?

DIEP flap reconstruction is considered one of today’s most advanced breast reconstruction procedures.  This safe, natural, implant-alternative procedure uses skin and fatty tissue from the patient’s lower abdomen to reconstruct a soft, warm breast following a mastectomy.

How is DIEP flap breast reconstruction performed?

DIEP flap reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy (known as immediate reconstruction) or any time after a mastectomy (known as delayed reconstruction).  Surgeons perform the procedure by removing the skin, fat and necessary blood vessels and nerves from the lower abdominal area and transplanting the tissue to the chest wall using microsurgery.  The tissue is removed in a way that mimics a tummy tuck providing patients with the added benefit of a flatter lower abdomen following surgery.

Who is a candidate for this procedure?

It is a common misconception that patients who are thin, have had previous abdominal surgery or have had chest radiation as part of their breast cancer treatment are not candidates. This is not the case. In fact, most patients seeking breast reconstruction are candidates for DIEP flap reconstruction.

How is the DIEP flap different from the more commonly known TRAM flap?

While many plastic surgeons offer TRAM flap breast reconstruction, few offer the DIEP flap procedure. This is mostly due to the lack of specialized training or experience required to perform the DIEP flap successfully. Although the TRAM flap was once the preferred method of breast reconstruction, it has now been surpassed by the more advanced DIEP flap procedure. The TRAM flap and DIEP flap are similar in that they both use skin and fat from the lower tummy area to reconstruct a breast following a mastectomy. However, the DIEP flap spares all the abdominal muscles. This reduces recovery time, preserves abdominal strength and decreases the risk of abdominal complications such as bulging and hernias.

What does recovery look like?

Healing after surgery is never a linear experience. Each patient is different. Thanks to the implementation of PRMA’s ERAS (Enhance Recovery After Surgery) protocol, recovery after DIEP flap surgery is now quicker and less painful than ever before. In fact, thanks to PRMA’s ERAS protocol, DIEP flap patients now usually only stay two or three nights in the hospital when surgery is performed at their facility and their patients rarely require narcotics for pain control following surgery. Typically, an overview of surgery recovery can be summarized in a six-week timeframe. For those preparing for DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery, a six week break down of what to expect while healing can be found here.