DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

The DIEP flap technique is one of the most popular breast reconstruction techniques used on Dr. Marcus Crawford and Dr. Steven Bailey's Kennesaw area patients. This technique utilizes the patients own natural abdominal tissue to rebuild the breasts after mastectomy. The DIEP technique offers a major advantage over the TRAM technique in that it preserves the strength of the abdominal muscles and results in a shorter and more comfortable recovery period. If you are planning to undergo or have undergone a mastectomy, our surgeons will work with you and your oncologist to develop a breast reconstruction treatment plan that is as minimally invasive as possible, and produces natural looking results. Here, we offer an overview of the DIEP flap procedure to assist you in choosing a technique that best suits you.

Many breast cancer survivors never imagined that they would ever have to undergo treatment to rebuild their breast(s). The emotional impact of a breast cancer diagnosis, along with an arduous treatment process, can be difficult for any woman. When it comes to breast reconstruction, we encourage our patients to focus on the positive aspects of surgery. For some patients, breast reconstruction provides us with an opportunity to not just restore your breasts, but to enhance them as well. Whatever your unique cosmetic goals and medical situation may be, our surgeons will formulate a course of treatment tailored to your needs.  As one of the few practice in the Atlanta area to offer the DIEP flap breast reconstruction, patients often travel to Crawford Plastic Surgery from surrounding states to receive this specialized method of breast reconstruction.

DIEP Flap Reconstruction Surgery

In the DIEP flap technique, the patients own abdominal skin, fatty tissues, and blood vessels are used to reconstruct the breasts. These components are essential to the success of the breast reconstruction procedure. The DIEP flap approach represents an advance in the field of breast reconstruction because it does not sacrifice the abdominal muscles or fascia. Instead, microsurgical techniques are employed to safely transplant skin and fat from the lower abdomen to reconstruct your breast(s). Because the underlying stomach muscle is preserved, patients benefit from a speedier recovery process and improved contouring of the tummy.  This method works exceptionally well for patients who have had a mastectomy with postoperative radiation therapy in the past as treatment for their breast cancer.  DIEP breast reconstruction can be performed at the time of a mastectomy (immediate DIEP flap breast reconstruction) or months to years following primary surgical treatment for breast cancer (delayed DIEP flap breast reconstruction).  Since insurance policies are required to cover breast reconstruction for breast cancer at any time during a woman's life, coverage for procedures such as the DIEP flap is usually not an issue for any women seeking breast reconstruction, even if her mastectomy was performed many years prior.

The DIEP technique is ideal for many women because most have sufficient excess skin and fat in the stomach that can be transferred to their breasts. During surgery, a horizontal incision is created in the lower belly, and the donor tissue is microsurgically removed. The small blood vessels within the donor flap are matched up and attached to the supplying blood vessels in the chest. The new breast mound is then shaped to restore (or enhance) the previous size and shape to the breasts.  The DIEP flap works very well to reconstruct a breast that is similar in shape and feel to a patient's normal breast.  In certain patients, there may be sufficient tissue to reconstruct two breasts for bilateral DIEP breast reconstruction. 

DIEP Flap Reconstruction Recovery

Because of the intricate surgery required when DIEP flap breast reconstruction is performed, patients usually stay in the hospital for several days following surgery for close observation.  Although the initial hospital course is similar to TRAM flap surgery, the long term results of DIEP breast reconstruction are often better since the abdominal wall muscle is not sacrificed and patients do not experience as much abdominal wall weakness.  Because the surgical scars for this procedure are limited to the breast and lower abdomen, they are easily hidden by ordinary clothing, swimwear, or undergarments.  DIEP breast reconstruction represents a significant advancement in breast reconstruction by using a patient's own tissue and sparing the patient's muscle. 

After patients have recovered from the initial stage of DIEP breast reconstruction, subsequent reconstructive procedures often involve nipple reconstruction or breast lift/reduction of the other breast.  The decision to undergo additional treatment can be made in conjunction with our surgeons and your oncologist.

OUT-OF-TOWN PATIENTS

DIEP breast reconstruction is a very specialized method of breast reconstruction and is not performed as often as other methods.  Many patients from other parts of the United States have difficulty finding surgeons in their area who commonly perform this method of breast reconstruction.  Patients often visit Crawford Plastic Surgery from surrounding states because they are unable to locate a surgeon in their respective area who performs this method of breast reconstruction.  For patients outside of Atlanta who have had prior mastectomy and desire delayed breast reconstruction, our office staff can assist with travel arrangements for them and their family members.  For patients who desire immediate DIEP breast reconstruction following prophylactic mastectomy or mastectomy for breast cancer, we work very closely with many excellent breast cancer surgeons to coordinate your surgery at one of our local hospitals.  Our office staff will work very hard to make you feel at home, even though you might be miles away from yours.

Contact Crawford Plastic Surgery today to schedule your breast reconstruction consultation.