Is DIEP Flap Surgery Safe?
Like any other major surgery, DIEP Flap procedures inevitably involve a small degree of risk. Patients undergoing any surgery may face complications including—but not limited to—infections, bleeding, and deep vein thrombosis. Fortunately, these conditions are relatively rare in DIEP Flap cases, and patients can further minimize these risks by selecting a highly experienced team of breast reconstruction surgeons.
In addition to these general surgical risks, microsurgical procedures such as DIEP Flap present a unique set of challenges. During a DIEP Flap surgery, microsurgeons remove tiny blood vessels from the abdominal area and reattach them in the breast area. These blood vessels are generally smaller than two millimeters in diameter, and a great deal of surgical skill is required to successfully perform this transfer. The process of reconnecting the blood vessels carries an inherent risk of blood clotting, particularly during the first six hours following the surgery. These clots occur only in tiny blood vessels and do not present any risk to the patient’s overall health, but clotting can stop the supply of blood to the transferred tissue. DIEP Flap surgeons must carefully monitor the patient for 24-48 hours after the procedure to ensure that clotting does not threaten the viability of the new breast tissue.
Although most DIEP Flap patients will not experience substantial difficulties during the surgical process, patients who carefully prepare for their surgery can further improve their chances of a successful outcome. Because a DIEP Flap requires incisions in both the breast and abdominal areas, recovery from the surgery can be a physically and mentally challenging process. Patients who are in good overall health before the surgery are much more likely to have a trouble-free procedure, and patients who work diligently after the surgery to improve their mobility can also expect to optimize their outcome.
Studies indicate that tissue is successfully transferred in approximately 98% of DIEP Flap surgeries, but patients should be aware that the overall success of a DIEP Flap surgery is largely dependent on the skill and technique of the operating surgeons. A patient’s safety is always maximized when the surgery is performed by a team of two experienced microsurgeons who continuously monitor the surgical sites. The best surgical outcomes are achieved by teams with years of experience working together, and patients should always select a long-tenured team of DIEP Flap surgeons who are board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Most patients who select a DIEP Flap surgery for the right reasons are extremely satisfied with their results, and they are able to return fully to their pre-surgery activities. Regardless of whether a patient chooses a DIEP Flap, another autologous surgery, or an implant-based surgery, nearly all patients who carefully discuss their options with a team of skilled surgeons are ultimately pleased with their decision, and can expect to have a safe, successful procedure.