Autologous breast reconstruction uses your own tissue (most commonly fat, skin, and sometimes muscle) that is taken from a different area of your body to re-create your breast mound. This breast reconstruction technique is capable of achieving more natural-looking and durable results than reconstruction with implants alone. For most patients, complete restoration of the breast mound is possible in just a few stages, most of which will take place right here at our on-site surgical center.
There are many options available today for autologous breast reconstruction. After performing an examination, our experienced Colorado breast reconstruction surgeons can help you determine the best method for your needs.
To learn more about this reconstruction technique, please call The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery at 720-457-4461 today. We proudly serve patients from Denver, Lone Tree, and nearby areas in Colorado.
The Basics of Autologous Reconstruction
In autologous breast reconstruction, skin, fat, and sometimes muscle tissue is taken from one area of the body in the form of a flap and then relocated to the chest, carrying its own blood supply. This tissue is used to create a new breast mound that often looks and feels natural. There are two forms of flaps used today in breast reconstruction — Pedicled and Free Flaps.
A Pedicled Flap is a flap that has been rotated or moved from its original location to reconstruct a defect nearby, without losing that blood supply. A Free Flap is a flap whose blood supply is cut to move the tissue a longer distance for relocation. Free flaps are newer techniques, developed about 20 years ago, and since have become frequently used in breast reconstruction.
Our board-certified plastic surgeons are among the few in the nation who have the microsurgical training to perform free flaps and reconnect the blood vessels.
Benefits of Perforator-Based Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction
Perforator-based microsurgical breast reconstruction is the most state-of-the-art method currently used in autologous breast reconstruction. This method uses techniques that spare your muscles and nerves, aiming to limit damage to the donor site by harvesting only the artery and veins (i.e., the blood vessels that “perforate” your muscles). This technique leaves your muscles in place, instead of having them taken with the flap and causing more significant damage.
Because this method requires so much extra time and effort, very few plastic surgeons use it – but we do whenever possible, for the benefit of our patients. DIEP flaps, SGAP flaps, and TUG flaps are all examples of perforator-based flaps.
Candidates for Autologous Reconstruction
There are several factors which help qualify a woman to undergo autologous breast reconstruction. Your surgeon will help you understand which methods are available to you during your consultation.
Generally speaking, women who have enough excess tissue to accommodate the creation of a flap are usually good candidates for autologous reconstruction. These women understand the risks associated with all flap techniques and have determined that this option will likely produce a more natural, longer-lasting result than other methods of reconstruction, including implant-based reconstruction.
Autologous tissue breast reconstruction can be a good option in many different situations, such as:
- First-time cancer diagnosis
- BRCA positive (high-risk for developing breast cancer)
- Removal of prior breast implants that have failed or are painful
- Prior lumpectomy and radiation
Our experienced and caring plastic surgeons will help you determine if you are a good candidate for this breast reconstruction method. We will also discuss how your flap-based reconstruction will be planned along with your mastectomy. Based on your cancer and your general surgeon's assessment, you can choose a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy prior to reconstruction.
Why We Prefer the DIEP Flap Reconstruction Method
At The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, we recommend the DIEP flap to all of our eligible patients who want to pursue autologous reconstruction. This Free Flap method of reconstruction takes a high degree of skill to complete, and there are only approximately 60 surgeons (less than 5% of all Plastic Surgeons) in the United States who perform this surgery.
The DIEP flap is the preferred choice mainly because the flap is taken from a woman’s lower abdomen in a similar manner to a “tummy tuck” without affecting the surrounding muscle. The excess skin and fat from the lower abdomen are removed and used to reconstruct the new breast.
Unlike other flap techniques that remove muscle with the skin and fat, the DIEP flap preserves a woman’s abdominal musculature. In addition to preserving the muscle, our surgeons strive to preserve the nerves to the muscle (nerve sparing DIEP flap).
Women who are the best candidates for the DIEP Flap are women who desire to have reconstruction and have extra tissue, skin, and fat in their lower abdomen for use as a donor site and desire a better abdominal contour.
Our board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons Dr. Jeremy Williams and Dr. Christopher Williams were two of the first surgeons to offer the DIEP Flap in the Rocky Mountain region. They are recognized as pioneers and leaders in the state of Colorado in the area of perforator (muscle sparing) breast reconstruction. They can help determine if this procedure is right for you during a consultation.
Other Methods of Autologous Breast Reconstruction
While the DIEP flap is our preferred method of autologous reconstruction, there may be cases when another method would be more appropriate for you. Our surgeons have received training for these procedures, but we will often refer you to another physician for surgery.
Other available autologous breast reconstruction procedures include the:
- SGAP Flap: This procedure uses tissue from the buttock area, and can be a good option for women who do not have enough excess abdominal tissue to accommodate a DIEP Flap.
- TUG Flap: The TUG Flap is a method that uses skin and fat from the inner thigh region, relocating this tissue to the chest wall to reconstruct the breast.
- TRAM Flap and Free TRAM Flap: These flap procedures utilize skin and fat in the abdominal area, but they take the rectus abdominis muscle as well. Even if only a small portion of the muscle is repositioned to the new breast mound, it can create abdominal weakness.
- Latissimus Flap: The Latissimus Flap is a technique which uses the skin, fat, and a part or all of the latissimus muscle from one side of the back. This can be a good option for patients with limited donor sites, such as the abdomen or buttock. It is also a good choice for patients with damage to one breast from radiation.
Our board-certified surgeons will discuss your options in detail and recommend the procedure that best meets your needs and expectations.
We have several women who have volunteered to be contacted by other patients to discuss any questions or concerns candidates may have — those lists are available at our office. These women have finished reconstruction and can offer personal insight, suggestions, and helpful tips to women starting the reconstruction process.
Schedule Your Autologous Breast Reconstruction Consultation
If you live near Denver or Lone Tree and you are interested in learning more about autologous breast reconstruction surgery in Colorado, please contact The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery today. You can fill out the form on this page or call us at 720-457-4461 to schedule your initial consultation.