If you’ve had a mastectomy (breast removal surgery) to treat breast cancer, you may feel incomplete and insecure after losing your feminine upper body shape. DIEP flap reconstruction is one of the many breast reconstruction options offered by the reconstructive surgery team at the UNC Aesthetic, Laser & Burn Center to help breast cancer survivors reclaim their feminine identity and restore the appearance of their breasts after mastectomy.
DIEP flap surgery is a breast reconstruction procedure designed to rebuild natural-looking breast mounds using abdominal skin and fat after one or both breasts have been removed during mastectomy. The procedure is named after the deep inferior epigastric perforator blood vessels that are used during DIEP flap reconstruction to provide the blood supply to the tissues that are transferred from your abdomen to your chest wall.
Women who have had or plan to undergo mastectomy surgery can benefit from DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Like all breast reconstruction methods, DIEP flap surgery cannot restore breast sensation, but it can give you new breasts that look and feel as natural as possible.
Women who have had previous abdominal surgery, inadequate abdominal tissue or recent history of smoking are not good candidates for DIEP flap reconstruction. Diabetes, obesity and vascular disease may also limit your eligibility for this procedure.
After you are placed under general anesthesia, your surgical team will perform your DIEP flap procedure by harvesting skin and fat from the donor site (lower abdomen) and transferring it to your chest wall to reconstruct one or both breast mounds.
The DIEP flap procedure is known as a free flap technique, meaning that it requires complicated microsurgery to reconnect donor tissues to the blood supply at the chest wall. As a result, DIEP flap surgery takes longer than other breast reconstruction methods (about six hours).
Within one week, most DIEP flap reconstruction patients return home from the hospital. You will need help from a friend or family member and plenty of rest for at least 1-2 weeks following surgery. During postoperative appointments, your reconstructive surgeon will check on your healing progress, remove drains and any non-dissolvable stitches and advise you on how long you will need to refrain from certain activities.
Within about two months, your DIEP flap reconstruction recovery will be mostly complete, and you may schedule nipple/areola reconstruction and cosmetic tattooing procedures.
The medical team at the UNC Aesthetic, Laser & Burn Center is here to address your questions about DIEP flap reconstruction. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation at our Chapel Hill offices. Our service area includes: Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Cary, Greenville, Clayton, Fayetteville, Garner, Greensboro, Wilson, Apex, Hillsborough & Sanford.