Background: Previous abdominal surgery may affect perforator anatomy and complication rates in patients undergoing deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction. The purpose of this study was to determine whether abdominal scars in DIEP breast reconstruction have an effect on flap and donor-site complications.
Methods: Over a 3-year period, 168 DIEP flap patients were retrospectively divided into a control group with no previous abdominal operations and a scar group with previous abdominal procedures. Flap and abdominal wound complications were compared between the two groups.
Results: Ninety patients (54 percent) underwent 114 flaps in the control group and 78 patients (46 percent) underwent 104 flaps in the scar group. The most common previous incisions were Pfannenstiel, laparoscopic, and midline. There was no significant difference between the groups in age, body mass index (mean 27 kg/m2 in both groups), smoking history, or radiation status. There were no significant differences between the control and scar groups in DIEP flap loss (1.8 percent versus 2.9 percent), partial flap loss (1.8 percent versus 1.0 percent), or fat necrosis (15 percent versus 14 percent, respectively). However, the scar group had a significantly higher rate of abdominal donor-site complications (24 percent) compared with the control group (6.7 percent; p = 0.003). The most common complications were abdominal wound breakdown (12 percent), seroma requiring operative drainage (6.4 percent), and abdominal laxity or bulge (5.1 percent).
Conclusions: With minor technical modifications, DIEP flaps can be performed successfully without increased flap complications in patients with preexisting abdominal incisions. Despite these design modifications, patients should be informed of an increased risk for donor-site complications.