The Department of Surgery at Saint Michael’s Medical Center is a regional leader in successfully performing the highly technical and cosmetically superior DIEP Flap form of post-mastectomy reconstruction surgery in which a new breast is formed from transplanted flaps of abdominal tissue.
The DIEP, or Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator, flap procedure involves taking skin and tissue, but not muscle, from the abdomen in order to recreate the breast. Due to the length of time and complexity of the operation, very few medical centers offer the procedure. However, the Saint Michael’s surgical team – with extensive experience in successful revascularization of damaged or transplanted tissue – undertakes DIEP Flap surgery with excellent results.
When the breast is reconstructed entirely with a patient’s own tissue, the results are generally more natural and there are no concerns about problems with implants. This technique minimizes the much higher risk of hernia or bulge from earlier, less sophisticated versions of breast reconstruction surgery.
As with all types of breast reconstruction however, two or three stages performed a few months apart are often required to complete the reconstruction process and to obtain the best result. Occasionally a final cosmetic surgery will be performed after the DIEP flap to make the breasts as symmetric and natural-looking as possible. Techniques such as fat transfer or grafting may be used to create a more natural appearance.
Many women who undergo this form of reconstruction enjoy the added benefit of a flatter abdomen, with results that mimic a “tummy tuck” procedure. The recovery time for DIEP flap reconstruction is four to six weeks to resume most normal activities.