Health Care

What Is DIEP Reconstruction Surgery?

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DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator artery) is a blood vessel in your stomach. DIEP flap surgery is a type of breast reconstruction. Your surgeon would use blood vessels, fat and skin from your lower belly to rebuild your breast during this procedure.
Keep reading to learn more about who might need or want DIEP reconstruction surgery, who performs the surgery and how recovery will go.

Who Are Candidates for DIEP Reconstruction Surgery?

Breast reconstruction is a personal choice. People who choose breast reconstruction surgery may do so to:

  • Create a more natural look after a mastectomy or lumpectomy
  • Give a more balanced look to their chests
  • Improve their self-esteem
  • Help their clothes fit better
  • Retain some of your breast sensation after surgery

DIEP flap surgery is a way to reconstruct your breast after surgery for breast cancer You may choose to have DIEP reconstruction after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. DIEP flap surgery might happen at the same time as your breast cancer surgery or after.

You shouldn’t have DIEP reconstruction surgery if you:

  • Already had DIEP flap or TRAM surgery to reconstruct your other breast as blood vessels, fat and skin can only be taken from your belly once
  • Don’t have enough extra fat and tissue in your abdomen
  • Have abnormal blood vessels in your belly
  • Previously had other types of abdominal surgery

Who Performs DIEP Reconstruction Surgery?

A plastic surgeon with specialized training in microvascular tissue transfer performs DIEP flap surgery. Microvascular tissue transfer is a complex technique to transfer blood vessels from one part of your body and reattach them in another part of your body.

What Is Recovery Like After DIEP Flap Surgery?

After DIEP flap surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital for 2 to 5 days. Your health care provider will give you detailed instructions about:

  • How to care for your incision at home
  • Medicines to take and avoid
  • What clothes to wear
  • When to return to normal activities

Recovery following DIEP reconstruction surgery can take 6 to 8 weeks. Your provider might ask you to wear a compression garment around your chest or abdomen for a few weeks. You’ll need to avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting and overhead movements.

By week two, your surgeon might give you the green light to begin gentle exercises or arm movements.

You will likely experience:

  • Numbness in your reconstructed breast and belly, which may take up to one year to fade
  • Soreness and pain around your abdomen and chest, which should disappear after about two weeks
  • Swelling around your reconstructed breast, underarm and belly for several weeks
  • Tightness in the skin of your belly and around your reconstructed breast

What Is Autologous Reconstruction?

If you don’t meet the criteria for DIEP reconstruction surgery, have hope. Patients who don't qualify for a DIEP procedure have other options for areas of the body we can take tissue from for breast reconstruction.

Using your own body tissue, including both skin and fat, to reconstruct your breasts is called autologous (or perforator flap) reconstruction. Your surgeon transplants your live skin, fat, blood vessels and muscle from another part of your body — usually from your abdomen, buttock, back, thigh or hip area — to your upper chest. Ideally, tissue from the part of your body that has excess available is used.

Flap procedures are categorized by the type of tissue used. The types of autologous reconstruction are:

  • Deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flaps: Tissue used from the abdomen
  • Superior and inferior gluteal artery perforator (SGAP and IGAP) flaps: Skin and fat used from your upper buttocks
  • Inner thigh (TUG) flaps: Tissue used from the upper thighs
  • Profunda artery perforator (PAP) flaps: Tissue used from the back of the upper thigh

There are many benefits of the tissue flap approach, including:

  • It typically lasts a lifetime
  • Because the tissue is live, your body won’t reject it
  • Tissue from your abdomen, buttocks and upper thighs is very similar to breast tissue, so it feels natural and matches your skin color
  • We can preserve the underlying muscle
  • It offers the added benefit of a tummy tuck, thigh, or butt lift
  • The breast feels natural to the touch
  • Some women report regaining sensation in the area

We’ll Help You Look and Feel Your Best

At AdventHealth, we know that plastic and reconstructive surgery is about much more than appearances — it’s about reclaiming your body and feeling comfortable and confident. Whether you’re seeking breast reconstruction after cancer treatment or another procedure, you deserve to be cared for by true experts.

Each of our plastic and reconstructive surgeons is board-certified, exceptionally skilled and can help you achieve the results you’re looking for. For the most specialized and personalized care, you’ve come to the right place.

Request an appointment today. You deserve to feel whole.

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