Delay in unipedicled TRAM flap reconstruction of the breast: a review of 76 consecutive cases.
Since its introduction in 1982, the transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap has become the standard therapy in autogenous breast reconstruction. A lower rate of partial flap (fat) necrosis is associated with microvascular free-flap transfer compared with the conventional (unipedicled) TRAM flap because of its potentially improved blood supply. A TRAM flap delay before flap transfer has been advocated, especially in a high-risk patient population (obesity, history of cigarette smoking, radiation therapy, or abdominal scar). The authors reviewed a series of 76 consecutive delayed unipedicled TRAM flap breast reconstructions during a 5-year period. Data were analyzed with respect to type of procedure and time of delay, overall outcome, general surgical complications, flap-related (specific) complications (partial or complete flap loss), and patient satisfaction. Seventy-six unilateral breast reconstructions using the unipedicled TRAM flap were performed between 1995 and 2000 in 76 patients (mean age, 47.4 years). Fifty-four flaps were performed as immediate reconstructions, and 22 as secondary procedures. Seventy-two flaps were based on the contralateral pedicle, and four flaps were based on an ipsilateral pedicle. In all cases, a flap delay consisted of ligature of both deep inferior epigastric arteries and veins, accessed from an inferior flap incision down to the fascia, with a mean of 13.9 days before the flap transfer. No acute flap take-back procedure had to be performed. There was no complete flap loss, and breast reconstruction was achieved in all cases. In five cases (6.6 percent), a partial (fat) flap necrosis occurred. Interestingly, the majority of these cases (four of five) were secondary breast reconstructions. In addition, of the five patients who had partial flap necrosis, four had a history of smoking, two received radiation therapy, three received chemotherapy, and three patients were obese (body mass index greater than or equal to 30) or overweight (body mass index greater than or equal to 25). In three cases, an early surgical complication (two wound infections at the flap interface and one at the donor site) occurred. One patient developed a deep vein thrombosis. Five patients developed secondary ventral hernias necessitating repair (6.6 percent). Forty-one patients underwent secondary nipple-areola reconstruction. In 19 patients of this group, a secondary procedure (e.g., scar revision, limited liposuction, and/or excision of contour deformities) was simultaneously performed. A survey of patient satisfaction was performed using a modified SF-36 questionnaire. Fifty-one patients participated (67 percent). The overall satisfaction was very high and 51 patients reported that they would recommend the procedure to others (100 percent). Multiple factors such as patient selection, surgical expertise, and preoperative and postoperative management contribute to the success of any type of autogenous breast reconstruction. However, rare partial and absent complete flap necrosis in the authors' series may be attributable to the flap delay. A low morbidity rate and short hospital stay may become increasingly relevant, with limited structural and financial resources in the future. Therefore, the delayed unipedicled TRAM flap should be regarded as a valuable option in attempted breast reconstruction using autogenous tissue in both a high-risk and the general patient population.
Erdmann, D; Sundin, BM; Moquin, KJ; Young, H; Georgiade, GS
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