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Unilateral Preoperative Chest Wall Irradiation in Bilateral Tissue Expander Breast Reconstruction with Acellular Dermal Matrix: A Prospective Outcomes Analysis

Weichman, Katie E. M.D.; Cemal, Yeliz M.D.; Albornoz, Claudia R. M.D.; McCarthy, Colleen M. M.D.; Pusic, Andrea L. M.D.; Mehrara, Babak J. M.D.; Disa, Joseph J. M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: May 2013 - Volume 131 - Issue 5 - p 921–927
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31828659c1
Breast: Original Articles

Background: Prior breast irradiation increases the rate of postoperative complications, including capsular contracture, in tissue expander/implant reconstruction. Acellular dermal matrix is heralded to decrease capsular contracture, but recent evidence suggests a possible increase in postoperative complications. The authors evaluated outcomes in patients undergoing bilateral tissue expander/implant reconstruction with acellular dermal matrix in the setting of prior unilateral irradiation.

Methods: A case-control study was conducted on all patients undergoing bilateral, acellular dermal matrix–assisted, tissue expander/implant reconstruction with a history of previous unilateral irradiation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Complication rates were compared.

Results: Twenty-three patients met inclusion criteria and had an average follow-up of 19 months (range, 4 to 60 months). The perioperative infection rate was 21.7 percent (n = 5) in irradiated breasts and 4.3 percent (n = 1) in control breasts (p = 0.079). Mastectomy skin flap necrosis, explantation, hematoma, and seroma rates were not significantly different between the groups. Sixty percent of patients had irradiated breast contracture that was one Baker grade greater than that in the nonirradiated breast. Body mass index greater than 25 and smoking history were significant independent risk factors for early postoperative complications in univariate analysis (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: Previous irradiation does not appear to increase the risk of early postoperative complications associated with acellular dermal matrix use in tissue expander/implant breast reconstruction. However, body mass index greater than 25 and smoking history are cause for caution. In addition, acellular dermal matrix does not appear to affect the degree of capsular contracture formation in the setting of prior irradiation.


New York, N.Y.

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and New York University Medical Center, Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

Received for publication July 10, 2012; accepted August 8, 2012.

Department of Plastic Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021,

©2013American Society of Plastic Surgeons