What is involved in the DIEP procedure?
Mr Ghattaura specialises in ‘own tissue’ reconstructions (autologous), that use your own skin and fat to produce a breast. One of the major differences between ‘own-tissue’ reconstructions and silicone implant based breast reconstructions, is that implants produce a more ‘synthetic’ appearance and often need revision surgery as the years go by. If you are looking for a soft, natural feeling breast reconstruction, the DIEP flap is the ideal choice for you.
A DIEP flap is a block of tissue composed of skin and fat, taken from your lower tummy (abdomen). This block of tissue is then transferred to your mastectomy site to create the feel and shape of a natural breast. This procedure is only possible if you have an adequate amount of tissue on your tummy. Mr Ghattaura will carefully examine your tummy in clinic to make sure there is enough fat volume to make a breast. If you are very slim or have significant health problems, then the DIEP flap may not be suitable for you.
The DIEP flap involves complex microsurgery and takes about 5 - 7 hours to perform with a 5 day stay in hospital. The tummy tissue is carefully detached from the deeper abdominal blood vessels, before being reconnected to new blood vessels in your chest. In some situations, both breasts are reconstructed at the same time. Following surgery, you will have incisions on your breast and your lower tummy. The breast incision may contain a patch of visible skin transferred from the tummy, so that Mr Ghattaura can check that the flap is working well in the days after surgery. The tummy scar will be a horizontal line just below the bikini line. There will also be an incision around the belly button.
DIEP flaps produce a warm, soft and pliable breast that resembles natural breast tissue, and are therefore considered the gold standard for breast reconstruction. In addition, removal of tissue from your abdomen results in a flatter tummy, as if you have had a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). Your abdominal muscles (abs) are not taken with this procedure and your tummy strength should be maintained after surgery. Finally, the DIEP flap is a life-long reconstruction, ageing naturally with you, changing size and shape with your normal weight fluctuations though life.
Available at Spire Cardiff Hospital.