DIEP Flap Reconstruction
Also known as “Tummy Tuck” Breast Reconstruction
- Minimal pain
- Simultaneous Tummy Tuck
- No Implants
- Reduced Lymphedema Risk
While we perform the full spectrum of plastic and reconstructive surgery, we truly specialize in one major reconstructive technique: the DIEP flap, or “tummy tuck breast reconstruction.” This highly advanced method of breast reconstruction combines a tummy tuck with reconstruction of a new breast mound. Performed by less than 2% of plastic surgeons nationwide on a regular basis, Dr. Basu and Dr. Ver Halen perform hundreds of DIEP flap procedures each year and have performed more than 2,000 procedures to date, having introduced the procedure to the Houston Woodlands and Mid-South region over a decade ago.
What is DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction?
DIEP flap breast reconstruction uses excess abdominal skin and fat—tissue that is normally discarded during a tummy tuck—to recreate a missing breast. DIEP stands for “Deep Inferior Epigastric Arterial Perforator,” which refers to the artery deep in your abdominal muscles that will help supply blood to your new breast.
The artery, vein, and occasionally a nerve are hand sewn under the microscope (microsurgery) to blood vessels in the chest. Thus establishing a new, independent blood flow to areas severely damaged by radiation or surgery. A soft, supple and shapely breast can be shaped on the chest and can last a lifetime.
Advantages of tummy tuck breast reconstruction
- Minimal pain. Pain is minimal after surgery. In fact, most of our patients take only Tylenol for pain the day after surgery.
- No muscle impairment. Our technique leaves muscle and fascia intact, reducing recovery time and preserving muscle function. Other techniques, such as the TRAM flap or latissimus dorsi flap, take muscle tissue from the donor site, which lengthens recovery time, reduces muscle function in the donor area and increases risk for hernia.
- Reduced time in surgery. Our highly experienced breast reconstruction surgeons have developed a surgical team approach that cuts time in surgery from 12-14 hours down to only 6-8 hours on average—that’s nearly 50% less time you are under anesthesia.
- The fastest recovery. The overwhelming majority of our DIEP flap patients go home after a 3 day hospital stay, are driving after 1 week, and return to normal activities after 2 weeks. Most importantly: most patients never need another surgery!
- Nothing artificial is placed. Many other breast reconstruction methods (including what some may call DIEP flap), remove a section of muscle and fascia, requiring placement of an artificial mesh. Because we leave this tissue intact, all incisions are closed using only sutures. Having no implants or artificial mesh also reduces infection risk and significantly increases success rate of the first surgery. Using only natural tissue to recreate a breast also avoids the likely need for future surgery to replace breast implants, which are not lifetime devices.
- A more natural result. Breast reconstruction using abdominal tissue, which feels remarkably similar to breast tissue, provides the most natural result of any technique.
- Improved breast skin sensation after mastectomy. In select cases, when we are involved with the reconstruction at the time of mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), we take great care to preserve the nerves that allow the breast skin to have sensation. Our nerve-sparing technique is a significant advantage to the traditional mastectomy that has been performed nearly the same way for almost 80 years.
- You lose unwanted skin and fat from the abdomen. Not only can we achieve a very natural breast contour with the DIEP flap, but we also tighten and reshape the abdomen to restore a firmer, flatter belly shape. Even the incision location is the same as a cosmetic tummy tuck—placed between the hip bones.
- Revolutionary treatment for lymphedema. At the time of the DIEP flap, we can also incorporate lymph nodes that were removed at the time of mastectomy. This may lower the risk of debilitating lymphedema (swollen arm).
- Patients must have adequate fat and skin in the lower abdomen to create the appropriate breast size. Another procedure may be suited for very lean patients, those who have previously had a tummy tuck, or patients with very large natural breasts.
- Two surgical sites mean two scars and two sites for possible complications. That said, serious complications are rare in the hands of a highly qualified plastic surgeon with specialized training and experience in tummy tuck breast reconstruction.
- Patients should be non-smokers in good general health after mastectomy. Transplanted tissue must have a healthy blood supply, and smoking as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension increase risk for serious complications.
- DIEP flap reconstruction is a complex procedure that requires specialized training in microsurgery. By choosing Breast Reconstruction Specialists, you can rest assured that your surgeon has the training and experience necessary to ensure your safety and an optimal outcome.