How Do DIEP Flaps and TRAM Flaps Differ?

breast reconstruction connecticutIf you’re having or have already had a mastectomy in Houston, you’ve probably been researching the different breast reconstructive surgery options available to you. And by now, you’ve probably encountered two medical terms that may seem confusing to you – a DIEP flap and a TRAM flap. Both of these surgeries promise to reconstruct the breasts after a mastectomy, but what is the difference between the two procedures? And which procedure is right for you?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig have helped countless Houston women with breast reconstruction surgery. And they’re here to help you and answer your questions, too.

What is a DIEP flap?

A DIEP flap, which stands for deep inferior epigastric perforators, is a complicated breast reconstruction surgery in which blood vessels, fat, and skin are removed from the abdomen, and then through microsurgery, connected to vessels at the mastectomy site. The result is a natural looking, reconstructed breast. Many women are eligible for DIEP flap surgeries, including those who have had previous C-sections or hysterectomies, those with umbilical hernias, women who have had previous chest radiation, and women with low BMIs (so long as there is ample fat available in the lower abdomen to transfer into the breast).

What is a TRAM flap?

A TRAM flap, which stands for transverse rectus abdominis, the “6-pack” abdominal muscle, is another type of breast reconstruction surgery. With this commonly performed breast reconstruction surgery, blood vessels, fat, skin and all or part of the transverse rectus abdominis muscle are transferred to the breast via microsurgery.

There are three types of TRAM flap surgeries. In a free TRAM flap, fat, skin, blood vessels and muscles are moved up from your abdomen and reconnected to your breast. In a pedicled TRAM flap, fat, skin and muscle are moved under your skin and up to your breasts to rebuild them, using the original blood supply from the abdomen. Finally, in a muscle-sparing TRAM Flap, only a small piece of your transverse rectus abdominis – about the size of a postage stamp – is transferred to the breast.

While TRAM flaps are popular procedures and have been around longer than DIEP flaps, they do come with longer recovery periods and more risks. TRAM flaps can result in loss of abdominal strength, bulging or pooching and even hernia.

What Do Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig Recommend?

For their Houston breast reconstruction patients, Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig recommend the more advanced DIEP flap procedure. Even though fewer breast reconstruction surgeons perform DIEP flaps, both doctors have had extensive training in DIEP flaps, including one-on-one training from leading international DIEP reconstruction surgeon Phillip Blondeel, to help Houston patients receive better aesthetic results and a higher quality of care. DIEP flap surgery also provides several benefits to Houston patients, including:

  • An untouched abdominal muscle, allowing for faster healing from the donor site
  • Fewer long-term complications
  • Less likely to require revisions or follow-up procedures
  • Provides long-lasting, natural results
  • Can be performed at the same time as your mastectomy

I’m Ready to Get a DIEP Flap. What’s My Next Step?

If you’re ready to get a DIEP flap procedure, your next step is to reach out to Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig for a consultation. Call our Houston office today at (713) 346-9909.