Background: Choosing a breast reconstructive modality after mastectomy is a critical step involving complex decisions. The authors provide outcomes data comparing two common reconstructive modalities to assist patients and surgeons in preoperative counseling and discussions.
Methods: A prospectively maintained database was queried identifying select patients undergoing expander/implant and abdominally based free flaps for breast reconstruction between 2005 and 2008. Variables evaluated included comorbidities, operations, time to reconstruction, complications, overall outcome, clinic visits, revisions, and costs.
Results: One hundred forty-two patients received free flaps and 60 received expander/implants. Expander/implant patients required more procedures (p < 0.001) but had shorter overall hospital lengths of stay (p < 0.001). The two cohorts experienced a similar rate of revision (p = 0.17). Free flap patients elected to undergo nipple-areola reconstruction more frequently (p = 0.01) and were able to sooner (p < 0.0001). Patients undergoing expander/implant reconstruction had a higher rate of failure (7.3 versus 1.3 percent, p = 0.008). Free flap patients achieved a stable reconstruction significantly faster (p = 0.0005), with fewer visits (p = 0.02). Cost analysis demonstrated total cost trended toward significantly lower in the free flap cohort (p = 0.15). Reconstructive modality was the only independent factor associated with time to stable reconstruction and reconstructive failure (p < 0.001 and p = 0.05, respectively).
Conclusions: The authors’ analysis revealed that free flap reconstructions required fewer procedures, had lower rates of complications and failures, had fewer clinic visits, and achieved a final, complete reconstruction faster than expander/implant reconstructions. Although autologous reconstruction is still not ideal for every patient, these findings can be used to enhance preoperative discussions when choosing a reconstructive modality.
CLINICAL QUESTION/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic, III.