Postmastectomy breast reconstruction is offered to women with breast cancer regardless of body habitus and breast size. The decision regarding technique for breast reconstruction includes patient preference, risk factors, and physical characteristics. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between preoperative breast size and choice of reconstruction, choice of contralateral breast symmetry procedure, and incidence of complications.
A retrospective review of 355 patients who underwent unilateral breast reconstruction at Emory University from 2005 to 2009 was performed. Patients were stratified into 3 groups based on mastectomy specimen weight with small breasts defined as less than 500 g, medium breasts as 500 to 1000 g, and large breasts as more than 1000 g. Patient demographics were queried including age and risk factors. Additional data points included type of reconstruction, contralateral procedure, and complications.
There were 144 patients with small breasts (40.5%), 150 with medium breasts (42.1%), and 62 with large breasts (17.4%). Women with small breasts were equally likely to undergo tissue expander (34%), latissimus dorsi flap (32%), or TRAM/DIEP flap (34%) reconstruction. Women with medium breasts were most likely to undergo TRAM/DIEP reconstruction (47%), whereas women with large breasts were most likely to undergo latissimus dorsi reconstruction (37%; P = 0.134). Small-breasted women were more likely to undergo contralateral augmentation (P < 0.0001), which varied based on the type of reconstruction. Women with medium-sized breasts were more likely to undergo mastopexy (P = 0.033), and large-breasted women were more likely to undergo reduction (P < 0.0001). Women with complications had a greater mean mastectomy weight than women without complications (744 g compared with 620 g, P = 0.0062), and there was an increasing incidence of postoperative wound infections with increasing breast size (18% of large breasts, 7% of medium breasts, and 3% of small breasts; P = 0.0003).
Preoperative breast size does play a role when choosing the most appropriate reconstructive option and symmetry procedure. Being able to adjust the contralateral breast, however, brings the extremes of breast size toward the middle, making most options available regardless of initial size and shape. There are noticeable trends in technique and outcome when stratified by breast size.