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Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery:
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Determinants of Patient Satisfaction in Postmastectomy Breast Reconstruction

Alderman, Amy K. M.D.; Wilkins, Edwin G. M.D., M.S.; Lowery, Julie C. Ph.D.; Kim, Myra Ph.D.; Davis, Jennifer A. M.H.S.A.

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Abstract

In today’s increasingly competitive health care marketplace, consumer satisfaction has become an important measure of quality. Furthermore, measures of satisfaction with treatment interventions are influential factors in determining patients’ and payers’ choices of health care. This study sought to evaluate satisfaction with postmastectomy breast reconstruction and to assess the effects of procedure type and timing on patient satisfaction.

As part of the Michigan Breast Reconstruction Outcome Study, patients undergoing first-time mastectomy reconstruction were prospectively evaluated, including cohorts of women choosing expander/implant, pedicle TRAM flap, and free TRAM flap procedures. Preoperatively and 1 year postoperatively, participants completed a questionnaire that collected a variety of health status information. The postoperative questionnaire had an additional seven items assessing both general satisfaction with reconstruction (five items) and aesthetic satisfaction (two items) as separate subscales. Patients were asked to respond to each item using a five-point Likert scale. Item responses ranged from 1, indicating high satisfaction, to 5, reflecting low satisfaction. In the data analysis, only patients responding with a 1 or 2 for all of the items within a subscale were classified as “satisfied” for the subscale. To assess the effects of procedure type (implant, pedicle TRAM flap, and free TRAM flap) and timing (immediate versus delayed) on satisfaction and to control for possible confounding effects from other independent variables, multiple logistic regression was employed. In our analysis, odds ratios and associated 95 percent confidence intervals were calculated for each independent variable in the regression. Statistical significance was designated at the p ≤ 0.05 level.

A total of 212 patients were followed during the period of 1994 to 1997, including 141 immediate and 71 delayed reconstructions. The study population consisted of 49 expander/implant, 102 pedicle TRAM flap, and 61 free TRAM flap reconstruction patients. The analysis showed a significant association between procedure type and patient satisfaction. TRAM flap patients (both free and pedicle) appeared to have significantly greater general and aesthetic satisfaction compared with expander/implant patients (p = 0.03 and 0.001, respectively). Furthermore, pedicle TRAM flap patients were more aesthetically satisfied than those with free TRAM flaps (p = 0.072). The other independent variables of age and procedure timing did not appear to significantly affect either general or aesthetic satisfaction. However, preoperative physical activity was positively correlated with general satisfaction at the p = 0.034 level.

The choice of procedure seems to have a significant effect on both aesthetic and general patient satisfaction with breast reconstruction. In this study, autogenous tissue reconstructions produced higher levels of patient aesthetic and general satisfaction compared with implant techniques. Pedicle and free TRAM flap patients do not seem to differ significantly in general satisfaction. However, women receiving pedicle TRAM flaps reported greater aesthetic satisfaction compared with patients undergoing free TRAM flaps. Furthermore, patient age and procedure timing may not have an effect on patient satisfaction with breast reconstruction.

©2000American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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