A deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction rebuilds a breast shape by moving skin and fatty tissue only (no muscle) from the abdomen to the chest.
One of the benefits of a DIEP flap breast reconstruction is that the breast(s) can be reconstructed without needing implants. Some women also consider it a ‘bonus’ that the tummy is left relatively flat after removing the tissue flap (a ‘tummy tuck’ effect).
Another advantage of DIEP flap surgery is that no muscle is moved from the abdomen. This means that the risk of weakness or hernia in the abdomen is lower than after a TRAM flap breast reconstruction. Women usually return to regular activities faster than with a TRAM flap breast reconstruction. However, the muscles may still be weak in the short term because the operation involves some interference with the muscle.
A DIEP flap breast reconstruction may NOT be the best option if you:
- have had surgery to the abdomen in the past (although, DIEP flap breast reconstruction is more likely to be suitable than TRAM flap breast reconstruction); other tissue flaps may be suitable alternatives
- have poor blood flow through blood vessels
- have chronic medical conditions (such as some severe respiratory or circulatory problems)
- are very slender (because there may not be enough abdominal tissue for this procedure).
Breast reconstruction techniques which use tissue flaps that rely on a supply of blood may not be suitable for people who smoke. Smokers should stop cigarette smoking and nicotine substitutes for at least 4 weeks before the scheduled operation. This may be a consideration when deciding whether immediate or delayed breast reconstruction would be best for you.