Dr. Craig completed her plastic surgery residency at Yale and microsurgical training at the leading microsurgical institution, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She was then hired as an Assistant Professor there, teaching and performing complex microsurgical procedures for breast cancer survivors. Dr. Craig has traveled to learn from the world’s best microsurgical and breast reconstruction experts Dr. Corrine Becker and Dr. Phillip Blondeel.
What Is Free Flap Surgery?
Free flap surgery completely disconnects blood vessels, tissue, and fat from a donor site on your body to reshape your breast after a mastectomy. As recently as twenty years ago, breast reconstruction required the removal of muscle as well as fat, skin, and blood vessels for free flap breast reconstruction. Some plastic surgeons continue to perform these older techniques to restore the breast mound for their patients. However, Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig focus exclusively on procedures that spare muscle, lessening healing time and patient discomfort.
Where Do You Obtain Donor Tissue?
Free flap surgery is a method of autologous breast reconstruction, grafting tissue, blood vessels, and fat from one part of your body to form a new breast mound. Due to differences in body type and fat distribution, the donor site for your free flap surgery depends on the amount of tissue required for breast reconstruction and donor sites that can provide the right amount of tissue and fat. Free flap surgeries are divided into four main categories based on the donor site location:
- DIEP: donor site is the lower abdomen.
- SIEA (or SIEP): donor site is the lower abdomen.
- SGAP: donor site is the hips and upper buttocks.
- PAP: donor site is from the upper inner thighs.
During a consultation, our doctors will evaluate potential donor site locations and review the benefits and limitations of each type of free flap surgery.
How Do You Determine Which Free Flap Surgery Is Right for Me?
Free flap surgery is entirely dependent on your body type and the amount of tissue required to reconstruct your breast mound. These decisions can be challenging, and many patients can quickly become overwhelmed by the options. During your consultation Drs. Fusi and Craig will talk you through all stages of the procedure and the main considerations for your surgery. These will include:
- The size and shape of your new breast mound.
- Prospective donor sites that will provide sufficient tissue and fat to shape a new breast mound.
- The type, size and location of your scar(s).
Your consultation is an important step toward restoring the appearance of your breasts. Our doctors will support you with the comprehensive care and personal attention you deserve during your recovery.
The Benefits of Free Flap Surgery
Free flap surgery is associated with a number of benefits related to lower risks of surgical complications. Houston patients who are candidates for free flap surgery experience minimal risks of:
- Interference with cancer treatment.
While free flap surgery has distinct benefits, some Houston patients prefer alternative procedures such as implant based reconstruction to avoid the additional surgical site and healing involved.
Choosing a Plastic Surgeon for Free Flap Surgery
Free flap surgery is a complex procedure that relies on advanced microsurgical and aesthetic breast reconstruction techniques. During surgery, your plastic surgeon will reconnect miniscule blood vessels (some under 1mm in diameter) to ensure adequate blood supply for your new breast mound. For the best aesthetic results, you should search for a plastic surgeon who is:
- Trained in microsurgery and breast reconstruction.
- Experienced in various methods of free flap surgery.
- Accustomed to integrating breast reconstruction into a comprehensive breast cancer treatment plan.
Dr. Craig has spent years familiarizing herself with the nuances of both breast reconstruction and microsurgery. Her training at Yale and MD Anderson Cancer Center has exposed her to the latest advanced procedures in the constantly advancing field of breast reconstruction. Dr. Craig has trained with renowned breast reconstruction expert Dr. Phillip Blondeel to provide Houston patients with the best free flap surgery procedures available.
For more information about free flap surgery, contact our Houston office at 713-346-9909, or our Guilford office at 203-458-4444, to schedule your consultation.