What is DIEP Flap Reconstruction?
During DIEP flap reconstruction, skin, fat, and blood vessels are cut from the lower abdomen wall and relocated to the chest to reconstruct the breasts. The abdomen is used due to its abundance of skin and fat. Because the DIEP flap procedure requires expertise in microsurgery as well as special surgical training, all surgeons or hospitals do not offer it. Our surgeons are some of the select few who specialize in flap procedures to provide patients with natural-looking results.
How is DIEP Flap Reconstruction Performed?
During this procedure, our team will skillfully move skin and fat from the lower abdomen to the chest, as well as reconnect the blood vessels from the lower abdomen to the blood vessels in the chest using microsurgery. DIEP flap reconstruction also offers the benefits of creating a tighter and flatter abdomen, due to the reconstructive tissue being harvested from the abdomen. This will call for a horizontal scar between the hipbones, and the navel will be repositioned. After incisions are closed, drains will be placed to avoid accumulation of fluid under the skin.
How to Prepare for DIEP Flap Reconstruction
Prior to your DIEP Flap procedure, you will need to have a CTA, or “CAT scan” done on your abdomen so that suitable blood vessels can be found for the surgery. It is also important that patients stop smoking for at least six weeks before your procedure, as it can impair healing and cause complications.
Patients should expect to spend three to five days in the hospital after their procedure. Recovery time commonly lasts about two to three months, and drains will stay in place between one and three weeks. You may also be required to wear a compression garment for up to eight weeks to assist in healing.
Heavy lifting should be avoided for four to six weeks after your procedure. As with any surgical procedure, scarring will occur. Patients will have multiple scars following their procedure, including the reconstruction breast incisions, repositioned naval incision, and abdominal incision. Because DIEP flap reconstruction does not involve cutting of the muscle, recovery time is shorter than other flap reconstruction techniques. Keeping the abdominal muscles intact also allows patients to maintain their core strength, as well as lessen the risk for complications. It is imperative to follow recovery instructions to ensure optimal results.
Overall, it can take as long as a year for your tissue to heal completely and your scars to fade. Some patients choose to undergo additional work, such as nipple reconstruction and reshaping of the flap.
For more information regarding DIEP flap reconstruction, contact the Arizona Center for Reconstructive Breast surgery in Scottsdale, AZ at 480-696-6391.