Tissue Flap Surgery for Breast Reconstruction
Tissue flap surgery is a way to rebuild the shape of a breast using skin, fat, and muscle from another part of the body. It is usually done after part or all of the breast is removed (Reference mastectomy Opens New Window) because of cancer. It may also be done for women who have problems with breast development.
Tissue flap surgery is also called autologous tissue reconstruction. "Autologous" means the tissue used in the surgery comes from your own body.
Breast reconstruction usually takes more than one surgery. The first surgery may be done during the same surgery as mastectomy, or it may be done later as a separate procedure. The nipple and the brown area around it (areola) are created at a later time.
Tissue flap surgery is done by a Reference plastic surgeon Opens New Window. The breast surgeon who does your mastectomy can refer you to a plastic surgeon with special training in breast reconstruction.
You will meet with the plastic surgeon before your mastectomy to discuss the best procedure for you. The surgeon can show you pictures of other women who had the surgery you are considering. Ask to see both the best and worst results so you can get a better idea of what can happen. You can also ask to talk to women who have had the surgery.
If you are not comfortable with the surgeon or the recommended treatment, you can see another surgeon to get a Reference second opinion Opens New Window.
Types of tissue flap surgery
Tissue flap surgery may be done in two ways:
- "Pedicle flap" means the flap of tissue from the back or belly is moved to the chest without cutting its original blood supply. The tissue is pulled under the skin up to the chest area and attached.
- "Free flap" means the tissue and blood vessels are cut. After the flap is in place, the surgeon sews the blood vessels in the flap to blood vessels in the chest area. This requires careful surgery using a microscope.
There are different types of tissue flap surgery, named for the area of the body where the tissue is taken.
- Reference TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window is one of the most common types of flap surgery. The surgeon takes muscle and tissue from the lower belly and moves it to the chest area. This reduces the amount of fat and skin in the lower belly and results in a "tummy tuck." TRAM may be done as either a pedicle flap or a free flap.
- Reference Latissimus dorsi (LD) flap Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window is a type of pedicle flap surgery. It uses muscle, fat, and skin from the upper back that is pulled under the skin to the chest area. The scar on the back can be placed at the bra line to make it less visible. Sometimes an implant is placed during the same surgery to make the breast larger.
- Reference DIEP (deep inferior epigastric artery perforator) flap Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window is a free flap similar to TRAM. The surgeon takes fat and skin from the lower belly area but doesn't use the muscle. By saving the muscle, it helps avoid later belly weakness. Like TRAM, it results in a "tummy tuck."
- Reference SIEA (superficial inferior epigastric artery) flap Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window is similar to the DIEP flap. But with this surgery, the surgeon doesn't cut through the belly muscles to get the artery used for the new breast. Like DIEP, it results in a "tummy tuck."
- Reference Gluteal free flap Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window is a free flap that uses muscle, fat, and skin from the buttocks to create a new breast. This may be a good choice for thin women who don't have enough belly tissue for DIEP or TRAM.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: May 9, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology