Breast Cancer

Breast Reconstruction: DIEP Flap Provides a More Natural Outcome for Patients

In the past, losing one or both breasts was one of the most devastating aspects of breast cancer treatment. Many women experienced feelings of anxiety and sadness over a perceived loss of femininity. Today, however, breast reconstruction gives women the option to rebuild their breasts and restore their sense of self.

Most patients elect to undergo immediate reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy. However, in patients who may require radiation therapy after mastectomy, or if patients are initially unsure if they would like to undergo reconstruction, reconstruction can be performed on a delayed basis.

In general, patients have two main options for breast reconstruction: implant-based reconstruction or reconstruction utilizing the patient’s own tissue (autologous reconstruction). While implant-based reconstruction is an excellent option in many patients, some may feel averse to the concept of having a foreign object placed within their body and have concerns about the safety of silicone implants. For these patients, autologous reconstruction is often a more suitable alternative.

Edward-Elmhurst Health offers deep inferior epigastric perforator artery surgery – also known as DIEP flap procedure. This cutting-edge reconstructive approach creates a new breast using fat and skin from a woman’s abdomen and, if desired, can include nerve grafts to restore breast sensation. The results are breasts that look and feel natural and last for a lifetime.

Using a team approach, Dr. Lucio Pavone and Dr. Iris Seitz perform this microsurgical breast reconstruction. The procedure involves transferring skin and fatty tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast. The blood vessels (arteries and veins) of the transferred tissue are reconnected to blood vessels in the breast area so that the transferred tissue remains soft and healthy. In some situations, small sensory nerves can also be connected to assist in the return of sensation to the reconstructed breast.

Typically, patients stay in the hospital for three to four days after the surgery and make a full recovery within six weeks. This form of reconstruction is able to restore a natural-looking breast without the need of an implant.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is a high-volume center for DIEP flap procedures, which means the multidisciplinary team has extensive experience performing these microsurgeries.

To learn more about breast reconstruction at Edward-Elmhurst Health, visit us online or call 630-646-6020.