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Evaluation of the factors related to postmastectomy breast reconstruction.

  • Tzafetta, K
  • Ahmed, O
  • Bahia, H
  • Jerwood, D
  • Ramakrishnan, V
Published Article
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer) - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2001
PMID: 11391187


A retrospective study was conducted in 75 consecutive patients requiring postmastectomy breast reconstruction over a period of 30 months. Each woman was offered one of the following four reconstructive options: free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap (total number of reconstructions, n = 34); latissimus dorsi musculocutaneous flap (with or without expander and implant, n = 14); endoscopically assisted harvest of the latissimus dorsi muscle (with expander and implant, n = 13); and application of expander and implant only (n = 12). Of those patients originally selected for retrospective study, six did not meet the short-term prognostic criteria, and concerted attempts to contact two others proved unsuccessful. The remaining 67 patients were examined for the clinically assessed aesthetic appearance of the reconstructed breast(s), the subjective self-assessment of patient satisfaction, and the possible development of postoperative complications. Of these patients, six required bilateral surgery, which accounts for a final sample size of 73 individual breast reconstructions. The 67 individual patients were assessed after a minimum time of 6 months postreconstruction and became the sampling units for analysis. The free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap procedure was the preferred method of breast reconstruction in 34 of 73 patients (47 percent), provided that it was generally agreed that the patient could endure a prolonged operation and that there was sufficient unscarred abdominal tissue available. Thereafter, postmastectomy radiotherapy at the chest wall became the primary criterion for assignment of a patient to a particular surgical procedure. Whenever radiotherapy resulted in poor-quality skin at the chest wall, endoscopically assisted transfer of latissimus dorsi muscle flap was considered to be the optimal treatment (13 of 73 patients, or 18 percent). Body mass index and smoking were secondary factors that were taken into account when this alternative technique was being considered.In the absence of radiotherapy, and provided that the chest wall was minimally scarred, patients who were reluctant to have reconstruction with autologous tissue were treated with expander and implant only (12 of 73, or 16 percent). This third procedure is a physically less arduous ordeal for the patient and was therefore the choice for all patients for whom a prolonged operation was not a realistic option. The fourth (and final) surgical procedure, latissimus dorsi musculocutaneous flap (with or without expander and implant), was selected for all patients with a better quality of skin over the chest wall, those whose abdomen was extensively scarred, and those who were on a general surgeon's operating list to undergo immediate breast reconstruction after mastectomy (14 of 73, or 19 percent). Equally good aesthetic results could be demonstrated with each of the four treatment options, provided that the reconstructive procedure selected was optimal for the individual patient and in accordance with the criteria described above. A variety of potential risk factors were considered for association with postoperative complications, including prescribed medication, obesity, smoking behavior, use of radiotherapy, and the recorded aggregated operative time. Of these, only body mass index (p < 0.001) and use of steroids (p = 0.016) were identified as having statistically significant effects on the incidence of adverse events.Finally, the general level of satisfaction expressed by the patient was highly correlated with a good appearance of the reconstructed breast, the physical comfort experienced while wearing a brassiere, and the general mobility of the unsupported reconstruction.

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