Despite the continued demand for immediate prosthetic breast reconstruction, some suggest that delayed reconstruction may reduce complications. However, with limited comparative data available, the extent of this benefit is unclear, particularly in the setting of postmastectomy radiation therapy (PMRT). This study evaluates outcomes after mastectomy and delayed tissue expander reconstruction (DTER) or immediate tissue expander reconstruction (ITER).
A retrospective review of 893 consecutive patients (1201 breasts) who underwent mastectomy with DTER or ITER at one institution during a 10-year period was performed. Relevant patient factors, including the use of PMRT and complication rates, were recorded. Complications were categorized by type and end-outcome, including nonoperative (no further surgery), operative (further surgery except explantation), and explantation. Statistics were done using Student t test and Fisher exact test.
There were no differences in clinical risk factors between ITER (n = 1127 breasts) and DTER (n = 74 breasts) patients. Delayed tissue expander reconstruction breasts had lower rates of mastectomy flap necrosis (P = 0.003), and nonoperative (P = 0.01) and operative (P = 0.001) complications relative to ITER. In ITER breasts, PMRT increased operative complications (P = 0.02) and explantation (P = 0.0005), resulting in a decrease in overall, 2-stage success rate (P < 0.0001). In contrast, there were no differences in outcomes between PMRT and non-PMRT DTER breasts.
This comparative study, the largest to date, suggests that DTER is a viable reconstructive alternative that may minimize certain complications over ITER, including in patients needing PMRT. However, unlike with ITER, surgeons can evaluate patients’ potential for success with DTER based on skin flap appearance after both mastectomy and PMRT (when present). As a result, the benefits of DTER may also be due to a careful patient selection process preoperatively. The choice of DTER should, therefore, be balanced against both individual patient risk factors and the psychological appeal of immediate reconstruction.