Background: Using an internal mammary artery as the recipient vessel in a free flap autologous breast reconstruction is common practice, but this vessel is often sacrificed for end-to-end anastomosis and is typically assessed by removing a costal cartilage segment. The authors studied the reliability of the end-to-side arterial anastomosis using a rib-sparing approach by comparing it with end-to-end anastomosis.
Methods: The authors analyzed 100 consecutive medical records of patients who underwent autologous breast reconstruction with a free deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap in which the internal mammary vessels were assessed using a rib-sparing technique. The study compared the complications between the two groups of end-to-side arterial anastomosis (50 cases) and end-to-end arterial anastomosis (50 cases).
Results: Exposure of the internal mammary artery using a rib-sparing technique was performed successfully in all 100 flaps. The second and third intercostal spaces were used in 46 and 54 cases, respectively. The mean width of the used intercostal space was 18.3 ± 2.4 mm in the end-to-side group and 18.3 ± 2.9 mm in the end-to-end group (p = 0.923). All flaps survived without partial or total necrosis. One case of venous insufficiency that required exploration occurred in the end-to-side group; the flap was totally saved with venous revision. There was no significant statistical difference between the end-to-side and end-to-end groups in all other variables, including mean flap ischemic time (p = 0.431) and fat necrosis (p = 0.339).
Conclusion: The rib-sparing and internal mammary artery–preserving free deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap transfer is an efficient and safe technique for microsurgical breast reconstruction.
CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic, III.