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What Are the Benefits of a DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction?


Posted October 20, 2020 in DIEP Flap Reconstruction | 5 minute read

Woman covering her breast with her hands

Breast reconstruction is an important component of the treatment process for women dealing with breast cancer. In many cases, the emotions and feelings of loss after the removal of one or both breasts can be just as challenging as the initial cancer diagnosis. After a mastectomy, many women seek to regain their pre-cancer appearance and look to breast reconstruction to make them feel “whole” once more.

Today, there are a variety of cosmetic breast reconstruction options available that go beyond saline or silicone breast implants. This includes autologous flap surgery procedures, like the DIEP flap breast reconstruction, which uses a woman’s own body tissue. Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Warren Ellsworth and the professional team at Ellsworth Plastic Surgery in Houston, TX understand that breast reconstruction can be a challenging process. They are pleased to offer the DIEP flap technique for patients seeking the most natural-feeling breast.

The DIEP flap offers multiple benefits to women, enabling them to rebuild their physical appearance and reconnect with themselves as a woman after a mastectomy. Below, Dr. Ellsworth explains more about DIEP flap breast reconstruction and the benefits that autologous flap surgery procedures offer his patients in Houston, West Houston, and Katy, TX.

Understanding what autologous flap surgery is

Breast reconstruction using a woman’s own natural tissue is referred to as autologous flap surgery. This procedure creates a more natural-feeling breast by using a combination of fat, skin, and, sometimes, muscle from select areas of the body such as the stomach, buttocks, or thigh. Because the breast is reconstructed primarily with fat, it has a similar density and feel as normal breast tissue.

However, it is important to note that not everyone is a match for this kind of breast reconstruction. Some women are very thin and may not have enough fat to be harvested and reconstructed into a new breast. They may be a better candidate for a saline or silicone breast implant instead. This is why it is best to discuss options with a board-certified plastic surgeon, such as Dr. Ellsworth, who is experienced in multiple forms of breast reconstruction.

What is the DIEP flap breast reconstruction technique?

A breast reconstruction option for women in Houston, West Houston, and Katy, TX who have undergone a mastectomy is the DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap technique. This procedure uses a flap of complete tissue, including blood vessels, skin, and fat, from a woman’s lower abdomen. The flap is transferred to the chest, where Dr. Ellsworth attaches the harvested tissue and blood vessels to the chest blood vessels through microsurgery, reconstructing a more aesthetically pleasing look and feel to the breast.

Benefits of DIEP flap breast reconstruction

Because autogenous breast reconstruction, like the DIEP flap technique, uses a woman’s own soft and pliable tissue to reconstruct the breast, it cannot be rejected. Patients do not have to worry about the problems associated with saline or silicone implants, such as capsular contracture, rippling, or rupture.

Unlike other autologous flap techniques, DIEP flap surgery leaves the abdominal muscle intact. It also takes less time to heal and reduces the risks of abdominal weakness. Patients who have undergone DIEP flap breast reconstruction find that the final results closely mimic the look and feel of their own breast. The reconstructed breast may change in volume as their weight changes and even improve in shape over time.

When comparing the DIEP flap breast reconstruction to other breast reconstruction options, the benefits include:

  • No foreign materials are introduced into the body, such as saline or silicone
  • 100% natural, using a patient’s own body tissues
  • DIEP flap breast reconstruction causes little or no loss of muscle function, or strength
  • Minimal risk of a hernia because the abdominal muscle is left intact
  • Faster recovery and less post-op pain
  • Removal of excess fat from the abdomen gives some patients a more contoured or flatter stomach, similar to the results of a tummy tuck
  • Natural look and feel to the reconstructed breast

How long does a DIEP flap reconstruction last?

Because DIEP flap breast reconstruction uses a patient’s own tissue, there is typically no need for routine maintenance screenings or additional surgery, while patients who undergo implant-based breast reconstruction are recommended to have them replaced approximately every 10 – 15 years. In some cases, DIEP flap reconstruction may need a secondary revision, but for the majority of patients, it can be considered a lifelong, lasting reconstruction.

Consider your breast reconstruction options

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Warren Ellsworth is committed to treating patients who have undergone a mastectomy and want to regain the natural look and feel of their breasts. The professional team at Ellsworth Plastic Surgery can help women weigh the benefits of DIEP flap breast reconstruction and if it’s the appropriate choice to make them feel complete once again. Serving patients in Houston, West Houston, and Katy, TX, we invite you to contact our office today and schedule a consultation with Dr. Ellsworth.

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