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.
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.
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).
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.
From the Divisions of Plastic Surgery and Finance, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Received for publication September 12, 2012; accepted November 2, 2012.
Disclosure: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, firstname.lastname@example.org