DIEP Flap Reconstruction

This tissue (“flap”) uses excess skin and fat from the lower abdomen to form the reconstructed breast. This technique has raised breast reconstruction to a higher level of technical refinement, requiring microsurgical expertise offered by Mercy Plastic Surgeons.

What Is The DIEP Flap Procedure And How Is It Performed?

  • The DIEP flap is by definition a “free flap,” meaning that the flap is completely disconnected from the abdomen and then reconnected to chest using a surgical microscope
  • The DIEP procedure uses an incision made along the bikini line, similar to what is used for a tummy tuck. The excess skin and fat are removed with small blood vessels connected to it. These vessels are then connected under a microscope to vessels in the chest at the mastectomy site so that the tissue survives
  • The tissue is then sculpted into a breast mound. The contour of the abdomen is often improved much like a tummy tuck procedure
  • This flap is unique because the fat in the lower abdomen simulates the consistency of the natural breast

Who is a Candidate?

Not all patients are candidates. Each patient must be evaluated individually to determine if they have enough abdominal tissue to match the breast size that they desire. An evaluation by a Mercy Plastic surgeon will help determine if you are a candidate for the DIEP flap procedure.

What About My Opposite Breast?

If you had a mastectomy on one side, it is possible to have an operation on the unaffected breast to contour and match the reconstructed breast if needed. This would be done at a second operation. The goal will be to reduce, enlarge, and/or lift the unaffected breast to match as closely as possible.

What About Nipple/Areola Reconstruction?

Nipple/Areola reconstruction may also be performed at the completion of the reconstructive process followed by tattooing of the areola. This is done as an outpatient procedure – you will go home the same day

What Are The Advantages Of The DIEP Flap Procedure?

  • The DIEP flap feels more natural than an implant reconstruction
  • The DIEP flap can be performed at any time after your mastectomy or at the same time as your mastectomy
  • The DIEP flap will age more like a natural breast and avoid revisions in the future as with implants

What Are The Disadvantages Of The DIEP Flap Procedure?

  • The recovery time is longer (4-6 weeks) than implant reconstruction
  • A scar on the lower abdomen is another disadvantage compared to implant reconstruction
  • Longer surgery time

What Complications Can Occur?

  • As a free flap, the DIEP can have microvascular complications (clotting or failure of the micro-vessels), which can lead to partial or complete flap loss. This complication is sited around 2%. Minor healing problems can occur at the breast reconstruction site or in the abdomen, most of them being treated with wound care. Wound complications are seen mostly in association with a smoking habit.

Photos are a great way to discuss a procedure, which is why we love to use them!

Photos are also a great way to help you understand your individualized and realistic outcome. Because each person is different in size, shape, body type, and desire, we feel that photos are best “interpreted” and discussed together in consultation. That is why we will use them in a one-on-one discussion that will help you understand the process and results that are achievable in your particular case.

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1111 6th Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50314

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