DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Dr. Patel is an expert in DIEP flap breast reconstruction and other surgical options that use tissue from your own body. Using your own tissue is an increasingly popular way to form a natural-appearing and feeling breast.
What is DIEP flap breast reconstruction?
DIEP stands for deep inferior epigastric perforator, which is a blood vessel found in the lower abdomen. This vessel provides blood flow to the abdominal skin and fat below the belly button.
DIEP flap breast reconstruction uses blood vessels and surrounding skin and fat from the abdomen to create a new breast. The fat shapes the breast and the blood vessels nourish it. The areas of skin and fat that are removed are the same as those that are removed in a “tummy tuck” procedure.
How is a DIEP flap procedure different than a traditional TRAM flap reconstruction?
With a TRAM (transverse rectus abdominus) flap procedure, a surgeon must remove a portion of the patient’s abdominal muscles along with the fat and blood vessels.
With microsurgical techniques, Dr. Patel can leave all or a vast majority of the abdominal muscles in place. That means the abdominal wall still functions, the patient has less pain, and the recovery time is usually shorter.
Where will my incisions be with DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction?
When using flaps techniques, Dr. Patel prefers to use aesthetic, cosmetically favorable incisions on the breast. He can combine flaps with lifts to camouflage scars.
The incision in the abdomen is similar to that after a tummy tuck: At the beltline, kept low at the hip. It is usually hidden by clothing.
How will my new breast look and feel?
Dr. Patel uses a variety of innovative techniques to enhance the look of the breast, combining aesthetic principles with reconstructive procedures. And while many traditional breast reconstruction methods result in breasts that lack nerve endings and are therefore numb, microsurgical DIEP flap techniques may open the possibility of creating nerve connections to partially restore sensation in some individuals. Every case is different, so schedule a consultation with Dr. Patel to discuss your options.
How long does the DIEP Flap procedure and recovery take?
For a one-sided reconstruction, the surgery itself usually takes 4–6 hours. For reconstruction on both sides, the procedure takes 6–8 hours.
After surgery, patients spend an average of three days in the hospital. You may feel fatigue from the stress that surgery puts on the body, or a sensation of tightness in the abdomen where skin and fat was removed.
There may be some discomfort after surgery, but it’s usually mild. About 40–50% of patients leave the hospital using only Tylenol for pain control.
Patients usually feel recovered after two weeks, but Dr. Patel generally advises people to avoid strenuous activity for a full six weeks to make sure everything is fully healed.
What if I have already had a tummy tuck?
If you have already had a tummy tuck or just don’t have much abdominal fat, Dr. Patel can take tissue from the buttock or thigh. The resulting scars are usually well hidden. Recovery is similar to cosmetic surgery in those regions, and can generally last 3-4 weeks.