DIEP Flap Reconstruction

When you think of reconstruction options after a mastectomy, you probably think of breast implants. However, there’s another option that only sources tissue from your own body and doesn’t require foreign material to remain in your body for life. 

A reconstruction via DIEP flap, short for Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator flap, uses a flap of tissue from your lower abdomen to remake the breast mound. A DIEP flap reconstruction enables your new breasts to have a more natural look and feel than other options because, like your original breasts, they’re made out of your own skin and fatty tissue.

Due to the delicate nature of the surgery required to reconnect all the blood vessels, it’s essential that you include a plastic surgeon on your healthcare team. Plastic surgeons have advanced training and expertise in performing microsurgeries like DIEP flap reconstructions and can provide you with the best treatment and surgical outcomes.

At Harris Plastic Surgery, we pride ourselves on caring for our patients throughout the whole breast reconstruction process. If you are interested in a DIEP flap breast reconstruction or have questions regarding the procedure, contact our office.

What Is a DIEP Flap Reconstruction?

A DIEP flap reconstruction is a surgical procedure that uses a patient’s own skin and fat tissues from the lower abdominal wall to reconstruct the shape and volume of breasts after a mastectomy.

The surgery itself consists of four stages:

  • Tissue Transfer: Tissue is taken from the patient’s lower abdominal area. This surgery uses abdominal skin and fat but does not remove any of the abdominal muscles.
  • Blood Vessel Microsurgery: Blood vessels from the abdominal tissue are connected to blood vessels in the patient’s chest near the mastectomy site to provide proper blood flow and oxygen to the transplanted tissue.
  • Shaping the Breasts: Once the tissue is reconnected to the patient’s blood supply, the main volume of fatty tissue can be shaped into an aesthetically pleasing breast mound for a natural look and feel.
  • Closing the Incision: After the tissue has been successfully transplanted and the breasts are reconstructed, all incisions on the abdomen and breasts will be closed and covered to begin healing. Because excess tissue has been removed from the abdominal wall to create the breast volume, closing the abdominal wall after DIEP flap harvest will produce a tighter contour, like a tummy tuck.

After the DIEP flap reconstruction is fully healed, the patient and plastic surgeon can discuss options for nipple and areola reconstruction to finalize the look of the new breasts – unless a nipple-sparing mastectomy has been performed and no reconstruction is needed.

Benefits of a DIEP Flap Reconstruction

When considering breast reconstruction, there are several options to choose from. One of the most common techniques is to use breast implants or tissue expanders. However, a growing number of surgical methods transfer skin and tissue from the patient’s own body instead of relying on mechanical devices for reconstruction. In addition to the DIEP flap, some other reconstructive procedures include:

While each surgical technique comes with its own list of pros and cons, the table below lists the benefits and risks of a DIEP flap surgery for breast reconstruction.

DIEP Flap Reconstruction Benefits and Risks

Benefits Risks
  • Natural look and feel
  • Long-lasting results
  • No risk of implant-related complications
  • Enhanced abdominal contour
  • Restored self-esteem
  • Flap failure (from inadequate blood supply to the transferred tissue)
  • Necrosis
  • Scar formation
  • Occasional need for revision surgery within the first year to obtain the best appearance

Why Choose Harris Plastic Surgery for DIEP Flap Reconstruction?

There are so many decisions to make when you are considering breast reconstruction surgery, either as a delayed option once you’ve already healed from a mastectomy or as a prophylactic mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. One of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful surgery is to surround yourself with a team of patient-centered experts.

From the moment you set up your consultation appointment, our billing expert Joanne Parrinello can answer all your questions about logistics, finances, and the winding maze that is health insurance. She is dedicated to ensuring you have the most stress-free experience possible.

Your treatment plan will begin with a thorough patient evaluation and consultation, where you and Dr. Harris will meet and discuss your needs, medical history, what you want from your breast reconstruction, and how you can reach those goals together. Dr. Harris has advanced microsurgical training from the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School with extensive experience in microsurgical breast reconstruction.

If you’re ready to schedule your DIEP flap reconstruction surgery, or you have more questions about other treatment options, call our office today!