Breast Reconstruction Cost

DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

The DIEP flap procedure is the most advanced and complex in reconstructive breast operation. Patients harvest and use their own abdominal tissue to create a new yet natural-looking breast.

Breast Reconstruction With DIEP Flap Surgery

There are several breast reconstruction surgeries like DIEP flap breast reconstruction available today. Over the past few decades, surgical techniques have advanced, and breast reconstruction professionals offer newer methods such as flap surgeries that help minimize potential side effects related to older techniques.

One of the newer breast reconstruction techniques is the DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator) flap. During a DIEP flap surgical procedure, surgeons use fatty tissue and skin from the lower abdomen to create or reconstruct a breast. The procedure leaves the abdominal muscle intact, and to many women, the abdominal contour enhancement is an added advantage.

What Is The DIEP Flap Procedure?

The DIEP (pronounced “deep”) flap is an advanced reconstruction surgery that uses a woman’s own abdominal tissue to recreate a breast.

It is one of the several reconstructive procedures that follow a mastectomy and uses a patient’s own tissue in addition to or instead of an implant. Unlike past flap versions, such as the TRAM flap, the DIEP flap preserves the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) by isolating the flap only on its beneficial blood vessels.

Once your surgeon connects the abdominal tissue and fat to the chest’s blood vessels, they close the abdominal incision. One of the great benefits of this procedure is its ability to contour the abdomen, just like abdominoplasty or tummy tuck.

How Is DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Done?

During the procedure, your surgeon makes an incision in the lower abdomen, from hip to hip, removing a section of fatty tissue, blood vessels, and skin then uses them to reconstruct the breast. Your surgeon will use a microscope to connect the blood vessels in the flap to the vessels in the chest within.

The connection makes the flap thrive and survive as a healthy and functioning part of your new breast.

You can also choose to perform DIEP flaps on both breasts if you’ve had a double mastectomy. This is known as bilateral reconstruction, where you use a single donor site.

Benefits of DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

Since the procedure uses your own tissue instead of implants, it typically makes for better and more natural results while avoiding unique complications common with breast implants. The benefits include:

  • It offers a natural look and feel
  • The results are long-lasting
  • The removal of lower abdomen tissue can provide contour outcomes similar to a tummy tuck.
  • It can help reconstruct breasts after an implant removal
  • Generally matches the opposite breast better, especially if you don’t want to interfere with the other breast
  • It leaves the abdomen muscles intact, unlike other flap creation procedures
  • It can result in larger breasts if you have sufficient abdominal tissue
  • More reliable in radiation skin damages
  • The breast ages naturally

DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction: What To Expect

You can undergo the first reconstruction stage simultaneously as a mastectomy. Discuss with your surgeon to learn more about the stages of breast reconstruction.

In case of upcoming radiation treatment, it’s beneficial to use a temporary tissue expander during the initial operation. Once radian therapy is complete and the skin around the breast has recovered (in around 6 months), your surgeon can perform a second operation to remove the tissue expander and use a DIEP flap to reconstruct the breast.

A one-sided DIEP flap surgery lasts approximately 4 to 6 hours.

You will generally stay in the clinic for about 5 days.

Complete recovery after a DIEP flap may take 6 to 8 weeks.

You’ll need to plan for subsequent operations to refine the new reconstruction, create a nipple or balance the other breast.

A good surgeon should be free to discuss your goals and preferences to determine what reconstruction method is best for you.

The Bottom Line

After any surgical procedure, there are chances that your breast won’t appear exactly like your natural one. However, the DIEP flap can help restore your breast so that your silhouette appears naturally similar to the one before the surgery. While it is among the most complex, the DIEP flap is still the most reliable breast reconstructive option.

FAQ’s

Who is a candidate for DIEP flap breast reconstruction?

The DIEP flap surgery often works well for many women, but you must consider your health, body type, personal goals, and lifestyle. Always consult with an expert in breast reconstruction to understand what factors determine one’s candidacy. It’s also important to consider preparation and recovery.
Generally, you may be a good candidate if:
You have excess lower abdominal tissue
You want results that feel and look more natural than breast implants
It is your first time having a breast reconstruction
You want to remove your previous implants and have new breast reconstruction with your own tissue.
You have realistic expectations for the surgical procedure
You are aware of potential risks
Ensure you discuss with your surgeon any history of the following:
Any specific medical conditions that may affect healing
Any past abdominal surgeries
While it’s popular because of a shorter recovery period since it doesn’t cut or move muscles, a DIEP flap doesn’t fit everyone.

What are the risks of a DIEP flap surgery?

Breast reconstruction using a flap procedure is a significant operation and often comes with the possibility of complications, including:
Tissue breakdown due to lack of enough blood supply or circulation
Open wounds
Fever or feeling sick
Breast fat lamps
Abdominal muscle weakness or hernia
Breast sensation changes
Longer time under anesthesia and in surgery
Infection
Bleeding
These symptoms may or may not go away on their own. If necessary, consult your doctor for advice on reducing the symptoms and speeding healing.

DIEP Flap vs. Implants- Which is my best option?

The breast reconstruction method you opt for is a very personal decision. Some women may choose DIEP flaps instead of implants for many reasons, including
To get better results that typically look and feel more natural
To avoid unique complications
But there are cases where breast implants may be needed over DIEP flaps for several reasons, such as lacking enough tissue to accommodate a DIEP flap procedure. Moreover, DIEP flap reconstruction takes longer than implant surgery and may require a longer recovery period.