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DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator) Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is a profoundly personal journey, which includes physical renewal and emotional healing after the challenges of breast cancer. DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforators) breast reconstruction has emerged as the gold standard in the transformation process, bringing innovation and a natural approach to restoration.
Here at Renaissance Plastic Surgery, we are proud to be Middle Georgia’s only microsurgical co-surgery team and leading experts on this particular breast reconstruction surgery. We have performed hundreds of DIEP reconstructions for patients living throughout the state. Our surgeons have trained at some of the nation’s pinnacle programs with an emphasis on reconstructive microsurgery. Whether you are considering the procedure, supporting someone on their reconstruction journey, or merely seeking to understand this medical treatment, we are here to help you understand this amazing procedure.
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What Makes DIEP Breast Reconstruction Unique?
DIEP reconstruction revolves around an advanced microsurgical technique. Unlike other forms of breast reconstruction that may utilize breast implants, DIEP taps into the body’s own resources. The procedure involves transferring skin, fat, and necessary blood vessels from the patient’s abdomen to the chest area. This autologous transfer (meaning it comes from the patient’s body) ensures a natural feel and appearance to the reconstructed breast. The best way of thinking of this procedure is as a transplant within the patient. This surgery avoids the complications and concerns that are associated with implant-based reconstruction. DIEP reconstruction also yields an abdominal contouring similar to a tummy tuck.
What truly sets DIEP apart is its meticulous preservation of the abdominal muscles. This differs from other methods like the TRAM flap, where all or a portion of the abdominal muscle might be taken during the surgery. By preserving these muscles, DIEP offers patients an advantage in terms of strength retention, post-surgical recovery, and reduced likelihood of abdominal hernias or bulges.
Illustration of DIEP Breast Reconstruction
DIEP Breast Reconstruction Experts in Macon, GA
Benefits of DIEP Breast Reconstruction
- Natural Look and Feel: Since the DIEP procedure uses the patient’s own tissue, the reconstructed breast offers a more natural look when compared to implants. This gives a seamless transition, with the reconstructed breast often being indistinguishable from a natural one to the naked eye.
- No Muscle Sacrifice: Unlike some other methods of flap-based reconstruction, DIEP spares the abdominal muscles. This results in a quicker and less painful recovery process, preserves abdominal strength and minimizes the risk of hernias or bulging.
- Reduced Complication Rates: When performed by experienced surgeons, the DIEP procedure has shown reduced rates of complications like capsular contracture, which can occur with implants. Additionally, since no foreign materials are introduced into the body, there’s no risk of implant ruptures or leaks.
- Enhanced self-confidence and Body Image: Beyond the physical restoration, the emotional and psychological boost this procedure brings cannot be understated. Women often report feeling whole and confident in their bodies post-reconstruction, enhancing their overall quality of life.
- Versatility and Adaptability: The DIEP method can cater to diverse needs. Whether it’s unilateral (one breast) or bilateral (both breasts) reconstruction, the procedure can be tailored to meet specific patient requirements, ensuring a harmonious and balanced result.
What can I expect with my recovery?
The recovery timeline is very similar to a tummy tuck. The main difference is that we do not perform this surgery on an outpatient basis. We admit our patients to the hospital for a period of close observation that usually lasts ~ 48 hours. The vast majority of our patients are ready for discharge on the morning of post-operative day 3, thanks to the use of an Enhanced recovery protocol. Patients can expect to return to normal, low-intensity activities by the two-week mark. We then ask that patients only resume heavy lifting or abdominal exercises at week 6 (this is when the scar tissue is strongest).
How many surgeries can I expect?
The answer depends on each patient’s individual diagnosis and reconstructive timeline. Treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy may prevent a patient from having their DIEP reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy.
While performing the DIEP flap, our goal is to achieve a high level of symmetric and aesthetic outcome in order to reduce the likelihood of any revision surgery. Should a revision be necessary, it is most often an outpatient “touch-up” surgery where minor asymmetries are corrected. These procedures often require minimal downtime.
DIEP Breast Reconstruction Experts in Macon, GA
The Importance of Choosing the Right Surgeon
Breast reconstruction, especially a specialized procedure like DIEP, is as much an art as it is a science. The results can deeply influence a woman’s self-esteem, body image, and overall mental and physical well-being. This underscores the importance of selecting the right surgeon—a decision paramount to achieving optimal outcomes. Here’s what to consider:
- Technical Expertise: DIEP is a microsurgical procedure that demands a high level of precision, skill, and training. Surgeons should have adequate training in microvascular techniques and be well-versed in the intricacies of the DIEP procedure. It is important to look for a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, which signifies that the surgeon has undergone rigorous training and meets the highest standards of skill and competence.
- Relevant Experience: While qualifications are crucial, experience is just as significant. A surgeon well-experienced in DIEP reconstructions is more likely to anticipate challenges, manage complications, and offer nuanced insights tailored to individual patients. At Renaissance Plastic Surgery, we have years of experience completing DIEP reconstruction surgeries.
- Co-Surgeon Approach: our surgeons are the only co-surgery team in Middle Georgia. We employ this approach because research has shown that this shortens surgery times (typically by over 2 hours), reduces cost, and minimizes complications.
- Artistic Eye: Good surgeons don’t just reconstruct; they sculpt. An excellent outcome depends on the surgeon’s ability to visualize and create a breast that is symmetrical, balanced, and natural-looking. This requires an artistic eye and a keen understanding of aesthetics. Having extensive experience with this procedure, it is not good enough for us to simply transport the abdominal tissue up to the chest. Our philosophy is that we want to shape this tissue as naturally and symmetrically as possible in an attempt to provide the most aesthetic outcome while reducing the likelihood of revision surgeries.
- Comprehensive Consultation Process: A dedicated surgeon will take the time to understand a patient’s desires, answer all questions, and explain the procedure in depth. They should offer a comprehensive consultation where they discuss the risks, benefits, recovery process, and potential outcomes. We will also discuss alternative techniques for autologous reconstruction (such as the PAP flap), prosthetic reconstruction, and hybrid reconstruction (which involves the use of an implant as well as a DIEP flap).
- Hospital Affiliations and Operating Facilities: Ensure that the surgeon operates in accredited medical facilities and holds good standing in hospitals. This speaks volumes about their reputation in the medical community.
- Post-operative Care and Follow-up: Top-tier surgeons understand the importance of post-operative care in the recovery and success of the procedure. They should provide clear aftercare instructions, be available for post-op consultations, and show genuine concern for a patient’s healing and comfort.
In the breast reconstruction journey, the right surgeon is not just an operative technician but a partner in the healing process. By placing equal emphasis on expertise, experience, and empathy, patients can pave the way for a successful, transformative DIEP reconstruction experience.
In consultation, your surgeon will be able to help you navigate the complex timeline and terminology associated with your cancer removal and reconstruction. We will help you to understand the difference between immediate reconstruction and delayed reconstruction. We will also help you plan around chemotherapy and radiation if those treatments are necessary.
DIEP Breast Reconstruction: Final Thoughts
DIEP breast reconstruction is a state-of-the-art procedure that utilizes a patient’s own abdominal tissue to reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy. This advanced technique offers the benefit of a natural appearance without the sacrifice of abdominal muscles, leading to a quicker recovery and preserved abdominal strength. The success of DIEP largely depends on the expertise of the surgeon, emphasizing the importance of selecting one with the right mix of experience, technical skill, and patient rapport. At Renaissance Plastic Surgery, we specialize in DIEP procedures and have years of experience delivering quality results to patients in the Middle Georgia area and beyond.
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