Chest wall irradiation significantly decreases the strength and quality of breast tissue supporting prostheses, increasing the risk of skin breakdown and implant or tissue expander extrusion. Autologous tissue, including the latissimus dorsi (LD) or abdominal-based flaps, including the muscle-sparing transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous or deep inferior epigastric perforator flaps, may be used to salvage reconstructions. However, data comparing outcomes of the two flap options remains limited. We compare postoperative outcomes from both flap types after autologous salvage reconstruction in irradiated breasts.
Charts were retrospectively reviewed from patients who underwent either chest wall radiation or postmastectomy radiation therapy followed by salvage autologous reconstruction with either a LD and an implant or an abdominal-based flap (muscle-sparing transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous or deep inferior epigastric perforator flaps). Patients with a history of tissue expander or implant failure requiring autologous salvage as part of 2-staged or delayed-immediate breast reconstruction that were operated on between January 2005 and November 2015 were included. Basic demographics, comorbidities, and recipient site complications (infection, wound dehiscence, seroma, hematoma, fat necrosis, and flap failure) were collected.
A total of 72 patients met the inclusion criteria which included 72 flaps; 35 LD and 37 abdominally based flaps. Demographics and comorbidities did not vary significantly between patient groups. Mean follow-up was 767.6 weeks, and all reconstructions were unilateral. Nineteen (26.4%) patients had at least one complication, most commonly minor infections (9.7%). Overall complication rates were not significantly different between flap groups (P = 0.083). Wound dehiscence was significantly higher in the abdominal group (P = 0.045), and fat necrosis also trended higher in this group (P = 0.085). Major infection trended higher in the latissimus group (P = 0.069).
When comparing outcomes of salvage flap-based reconstruction in radiated breast tissue, overall complication rates were similar when comparing postoperative outcomes between the LD- and abdominal-based flaps. Wound dehiscence was significantly higher when salvage reconstruction used an abdominal flap. Understanding the complications after salvage procedures can help inform decision making and optimize patient care to improve outcomes after breast reconstruction in the radiated breast.