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In the DIEP flap excess abdominal skin and fat from the lower part of the abdomen is utilised. The blood vessels, which run through the abdominal rectus muscle are meticulously freed prior to transfer to the chest.

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Unlike the TRAM flap the muscle is not necessary for reconstruction. As a result it is a less invasive procedure, with less post operative pain, quicker recovery and patients are able to resume their pre-operative activities much sooner after surgery.

In these procedures, the abdominal tissue is completely detached from the abdomen and re-attached to the small blood vessels in the breast area, resulting in a microsurgical tissue transfer.

These tiny blood vessels require the surgeon to use a microscope to connect them together. Once this is complete, the blood flow to the tissue is restored. The tissue is then shaped to fit the mastectomy defect and a small skin patch is left.

The skin patch from the abdomen will be used later to reconstruct the nipple. For patients who underwent a complete mastectomy, the abdominal skin is used to replace the missing breast skin.

In a DIEP flap, the operation leaves a horizontal scar on the lower abdomen, similar to that created in a cosmetic tummy tuck, resulting in a slimmer abdominal contour that is appreciated by most women.

Fact Sheet

Anaesthetic
General anaesthesia.

Duration
4-6 hours.

Length of stay
4-5 nights following the operation.

RISKS/POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

Early (1-2 days):
Frequent
Bruising
Swelling
Discomfort

Infrequent
Bleeding (haematoma)
Infection
Failure of flap (approx 2%)
Re-operation (approx 4%) Wound breakdown
Necrosis of mastectomy skin flaps

Later (after one week):
Frequent

Reduced or no sensation of reconstructed breast

Infrequent
Hernia
Seroma

RECOVERY

Immediately after the operation

  • You will feel bruised and sore and there will be some swelling
  • Pain is usually moderate and controlled with standard painkillers
  • You will be out of bed the next day and over the next few days you will increase the amount of walking that you do

After return home

  • Socialising with friends 2-3 weeks
  • Return to work at 6-8 weeks
  • Driving at 4 weeks
  • Swelling and bruising 6-8 weeks
  • Wear compression garment for 4 weeks
  • Return gym and strenuous activity after 3 months
  • Final result at 4-6 months

PERMANENCE OF RESULTS
Permanent.