The deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap has gained popularity for autologous free flap breast reconstruction. Historically, patients receiving post mastectomy radiation therapy (PMRT) were not candidates for immediate autologous reconstruction due to concerns for flap volume depletion, fat necrosis, and flap failure. However, this literature is anecdotal and lacks case controls. We objectively analyzed the effects radiation imparts on immediate DIEP flap reconstruction using 3-dimensional software and inherent controls.
We performed a cohort study on breast cancer patients who underwent immediate bilateral DIEP flap reconstructions followed by PMRT between 2005 and 2014. Exclusion criteria included patients less than 6 months from PMRT completion and bilateral PMRT. Three-dimensional photographs were analyzed using Geomagic (Rock Hill, SC) software to compare flap position, projection, and volume between the irradiated and nonirradiated reconstructed breasts. Breast Q survey evaluated patients’ satisfaction.
Eleven patients met inclusion criteria. Average time from PMRT completion to photo acquisition was 1.93 years. There was no statistical difference in average volume or projection in the irradiated versus nonirradiated side (P = 0.087 and P = 0.176, respectively). However, position of the irradiated flaps was significantly higher on the chest wall compared to controls (mean difference, 1.325 cm; P < 0.004).
Three-dimensional analysis exhibited no statistical differences in projection or volume between irradiated DIEP flaps and nonirradiated controls. However, irradiated DIEP flaps were positioned higher on the chest wall, similar to observations in irradiated tissue expanders/implants. Patients were satisfied as measured by Breast Q. Immediate bilateral DIEP flap reconstructions can safely be performed with PMRT with satisfactory results.