Sunday, April 18, 2010

Full "tummy tuck" closure with DIEP flap breast reconstruction... A good idea?

"It is possible to do rectus plication with DIEP flap donor site closure for a full abdominoplasty result"

Karen M. Horton, MD answers: Possible to do full tummy tuck while doing diep flap procedure?

I understand that the diep flap benefit of a real 'tummy tuck' is not covered by insurance. Is it reasonable to ask for the cost of a full tummy tuck (sewing together muscles, etc.) while the surgeon is performing a diep flap procedure? My surgeon seems very reluctant to even discuss outlying procedures such as abdominoplasty and liposuction, which I believe are both necessary to achieve the best final results. If I'm willing to pay for these procedures out of pocket, I don't know why my surgeon won't discuss them. Any insight appreciated.
Karen M. Horton, MD

When the DIEP flap (deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap) is used for microsurgical breast reconstruction, usually a small split is made in the muscle fascia (thick layer of collagen over top of the rectus abdominis muscles) to dissect out the blood vessels used for transplantation of skin and fat from the tummy to the breast.

Usually, the fascial split is simply closed, and the overlying anterior abdominal wall (sheet of skin and fat over the muscles of the trunk) is pulled tighter and closed, resulting in a tummy tuck scar.

It IS possible to perform rectus fascial plication (corsetting of the rectus abdominis muscles of the abdominal wall towards each other in the midline AT THE TIME of DIEP flap donor site closure.
However, doing so may change the pressures inside the abdominal cavity (i.e. on the stomach, intestines, diaphragm, etc) and may increase the risk of complications to the flap circulation in the short term. The worst case scenario would be to perform cosmetic steps during surgery and to lose the flap altogether!

Performing a full tummy tuck closure with the DIEP flap is something I HAVE performed successfully on a number of occasions, but patients must be very carefully selected and we would all have to be willing to accept an increased risk for complications.

I am currently reviewing my results on this combined procedure and will be presenting my work at upcoming meetings and in the form of a scientific paper, to be published on my website.

Often, the best solution is the simplest. On the day of your DIEP flap, it is usually best to focus only on microsurgical success. "Touch-ups" can be done any time in the future, including liposuction contouring of the abdomen (done in most of my patients) together with their nipple and areolar reconstruction, and/or rectus fascial plication, if needed.

See the photographs below of an example of rectus fascial plication done either at the time of DIEP flap donor site closure.  Trust your Microsurgeon to make the best decision for you, and to ensure a SAFE and SUCCESSFUL breast reconstruction as the #1 goal!

Karen M. Horton, M.D., M.Sc., F.R.C.S.C.