Dr. Craig has received years of extensive training from Yale and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, immersing herself in the complex intricacy of microsurgical procedures required for DIEP flap surgery. She has received one-on-one training from leading international DIEP reconstruction surgeon Phillip Blondeel to support patients with aesthetic excellence and expanded options for care.
What Is DIEP Flap Surgery?
As the preferred autologous perforator surgery for breast reconstruction, deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap surgery rebuilds the tissue removed from your breast during a mastectomy with tissue from your own body. Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig prefer this treatment because DIEP flap surgery:
- Leaves muscle untouched, allowing for faster healing of the donor site.
- Results in fewer long-term complications when compared to prosthetic reconstruction.
- Has a lower risk of infection than other procedures.
- Is less likely to require revisional procedures.
- Provides excellent long-term results that withstand time and grow proportionally with your body.
- Can often be completed during the same surgery as your mastectomy.
DIEP flap breast reconstruction has the additional benefit of allowing women with larger breasts to restore their full volume following a mastectomy.
Should I Get DIEP Flap Surgery?
Women have vastly different body types that recommend or restrict options for breast reconstruction surgery. DIEP flap surgery is recommended for women who:
- Have some extra tissue around their abdomen (higher percentage of body fat).
- Need to restore all of their breast tissue after a mastectomy.
- Are in good health.
Although DIEP flap surgery is an advanced breast reconstruction procedure, there are some potential risks such as donor morbidity and free flap failure. Drs. Fusi and Craig take every possible precaution and carefully monitor your healing, intervening at the first sign of complication. Your health and safety are their number one priority.
The Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Breast Reconstruction
An in-depth, thorough consultation and comprehensive review of your cancer treatment plan is an essential part of planning your DIEP flap surgery. Our doctors will work with other experts to form a multidisciplinary breast cancer treatment team to determine the most beneficial procedure that incurs the lowest risk. During a consultation they will consider:
- If chemotherapy and radiation are part of your treatment plan.
- The donor site best suited for tissue graft based on your body type and preferences.
- Cosmetic results that you want from your breast reconstruction surgery.
Your consultation will give you a clear and comprehensive idea of the options available for breast reconstruction. Drs. Fusi and Craig will outline the benefits and risks associated with each one.
What Will Happen During DIEP Flap Surgery?
If your treatment plan permits, our doctors will perform your DIEP flap surgery immediately after your breast surgeon removes all of the breast tissue. While your breast cancer surgeon is performing their portion of the surgery, Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig will be:
- Removing tissue and extra skin from your lower abdomen.
- Closing the incision in your abdomen to minimize scarring.
- Grafting this tissue to your breast using microsurgical techniques to connect blood vessels. Blood supply is crucial to your tissue graft integrating
- Closing the incision on your breast to promote healing.
Once you are out of surgery, you will wake up in the recovery room where your heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure will be monitored closely. Our doctors will check on you, making sure that you are doing well and they will perform several follow-up exams to ensure that you’re healing properly during recovery.
More About Removing Tissue from Your Lower Abdomen
If it is decided that the donor tissue needed for your procedure will be taken from your lower abdomen, there are some things you should know. The removal of lower abdominal skin and fat is similar to a tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, in that unwanted fat and skin are removed, creating an improved abdominal contour which compliments your reconstructed breasts.
The skin and soft, living tissue contain the necessary minuscule blood vessels which are matched to the supplying blood vessels at your mastectomy site and meticulously reattached using the most technologically advanced surgical equipment available for your DIEP flap surgery. Your surgeon will make a fine, precise incision that runs along your bikini line from hip to hip and no muscles will be cut or moved during the process.
You will be given detailed instructions on how to care for your stitches and surgical drains. Being that you have had two simultaneous surgeries, your recovery may take longer. As with other abdominal surgeries, you can expect to experience pain in addition to scarring that should fade with time.
What Are the Psychological Benefits of DIEP Flap Surgery?
Women that are considering DIEP flap surgery have undergone tremendous emotional upheaval that is radically life-changing and incredibly personal. Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig have performed the procedure for countless patients, and understand that every woman processes the experience of breast cancer differently. The doctors are sensitive to the fact that this is your body, your feelings, and your life they are being entrusted with.
DIEP flap breast reconstruction is more than a physical restoration; it restores a woman’s sense of femininity and offers long-term benefits that enhance her quality of life. No matter your age, all women instinctively associate their breasts with who they are. Your sexuality, self-esteem, and relationships are all affected when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. For women that are faced with the idea of losing such an intimate part of their bodies, it is deeply emotionally disturbing. Knowing that your new breasts will be in place when you wake up from surgery or as soon as your treatment plan permits, has a powerfully positive impact on your emotional health because it’s the beginning of getting back to life as usual.
The correlation between your physical health and your psychological well-being is intertwined, as you know, and it is important to understand that this time in your life does not have to define who you are. Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig have helped many women, like yourself, to feel both hopeful and pretty again which are essential feelings that contribute to your quality of life as well as your self-esteem.
How Do I Find a Qualified Surgeon?
DIEP flap surgery is an involved procedure that requires the incredible precision and delicate touch of a microsurgeon coupled with the aesthetic expertise of a skilled plastic surgeon. Because this complex procedure involves moving tissue from one part of your body to another, microsurgical training is particularly important to ensure continuous blood supply to your new breast.
Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig treat patients using these specialized techniques developed over their years of:
- Advanced plastic surgery training from Yale.
- Microsurgical training from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Connecticut.
- Board Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
- One-on-one training from pioneering DIEP reconstructive surgeon Phillip Blondeel.
- Approachability and willingness to inform and explain all steps of the procedure.
- Experience working on multidisciplinary breast cancer reconstruction teams to determine the ideal time for treatment.
Choosing less experienced breast reconstruction surgeons to perform your surgery increases your risk of complications such as infection, delayed healing, and blood clots.
To learn more about DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery, contact our offices in Houston at (713) 346-9909.