DIEP flap is an autologous breast reconstruction technique that uses excess tissue, not muscle, taken from the lower belly to recreate a breast that looks and feels natural. Like other “flap” procedures, it does not involve placing breast implants. 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.
Dr. Jeremy Williams and Dr. Christopher Williams were among the first surgeons to offer DIEP flap in the Rocky Mountain region. They are recognized as muscle-sparing breast reconstruction leaders and pioneers in the state of Colorado.
Our surgeons can help determine if this procedure is right for you during a consultation. Call 303-706-1100 today to arrange a visit to our office. We serve patients from Denver and Lone Tree, Colorado, as well as across the nation.
What is DIEP Flap Reconstruction?
The DIEP flap technique is named after the deep inferior epigastric perforator artery that runs through the lower abdominal area. With this type of reconstruction, a flap of tissue is taken from bellow the belly button in a similar manner to a tummy tuck — without affecting the surrounding muscle like other autologous procedures. Then, our surgeons carefully reattach the blood vessels of the flap to those in the chest before reshaping the tissue.
Depending on your situation, DIEP flap can be performed immediately after your mastectomy. It can also be carried out as a staged procedure, starting with placing a tissue expander at the time of your mastectomy. Lastly, DIEP flap can be done years after your cancer surgery, an option referred to as delayed reconstruction.
DIEP flap takes a high degree of skill to complete, and there are only approximately 60 surgeons (less than 5 percent of all plastic surgeons) in the United States who perform this procedure. We are proud to have three surgeons on our team who are well versed in the DIEP flap approach.
Benefits of DIEP Flap
DIEP flap has a variety of benefits that make it the preferred choice for autologous reconstruction at our practice, including:
- Natural-looking and feeling outcome
- Improved abdominal contour
- Preserves muscle integrity and strength
- Shorter recovery period than other flap methods
On top of these advantages, the DIEP flap approach creates a new breast shape that should last a lifetime. This longevity is a reason why some women prefer DIEP flap over implant-based reconstruction. Breast implants are not lifetime medical devices and may need to be replaced after 10 or 15 years.
Ideal DIEP Flap Candidates
DIEP flap is an excellent option for many patients interested in restoring the look and feel of their breasts. This procedure can be performed as your primary reconstruction, or as a means of improving a failed or dissatisfying implant reconstruction done by another surgeon.
The DIEP flap technique may be appropriate if you want an alternative to breast implants and have enough excess tissue to complete the procedure. Our experienced and caring plastic surgeons will help you determine if you are a good candidate for this breast reconstruction method during your consultation.
Do you need a certain amount of fat to get a DIEP Flap?
The DIEP flap technique uses your own tissue to rebuild your breasts. For that reason, you must have enough excess skin and fat in your abdominal area to qualify for this procedure. It will be moved up from your lower belly to your chest, creating a result that looks and feels incredibly natural.
Some women don’t have enough extra tummy tissue to be good candidates for DIEP flap surgery. If you are in that group, you may need to consider other donor sites for the tissue flaps, such as your thighs, buttocks, or back. Implant-based reconstruction can also be a great alternative to DIEP flap because it works regardless of your body type.
Is DIEP Flap Surgery painful?
It is normal to experience some temporary tightness and discomfort after DIEP flap surgery. We will carefully monitor your pain during your postoperative hospital stay. Most of our DIEP flap patients are discharged in two days — two to three days shorter than the national average! Our aftercare instructions will help you remain comfortable when you get home.
We will advise you to sleep in a recliner, perform some gentle range of motion exercises, and take pain medicine as needed. These small steps can make a big difference in your experience.
“My stay at Sky Ridge Medical Center was extraordinary, more like a spa stay than a hospital. Even the recuperation was not as bad as anticipated.” - DIEP flap patient testimonial.
DIEP Flap Recovery and Results
At The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, 95 percent of our patients are discharged from the hospital two days after their procedure. This is shorter than the four to five day stay that is common elsewhere.
Our surgeons will provide you with detailed post-operative care instructions and activity restrictions to follow when you return home. DIEP flap recovery time tends to vary between patients, though most individuals can resume normal activities in about four weeks.
Your final results will take some time to appear due to post-surgical swelling and bruising. Any breast shaping surgeries that you pursue after your DIEP flap procedure to enhance your outcome will impact your recovery timing as well. After you are fully healed, you can expect a beautiful, confidence-boosting breast appearance.
Click here to view before and after photos of DIEP flap and other types of autologous reconstruction.
"I had unilateral DIEP flap reconstructive surgery and not only do I not have an implant (as Dr. Williams used all of my own body tissue), but the outcome was also tremendous!" –S.K.
How long does it take DIEP Flap to heal?
Everyone heals from surgery at a slightly different pace. In general, you may be able to resume all of your normal activities approximately eight weeks after DIEP flap breast reconstruction. It can take longer than that for post-surgical swelling, tightness, and numbness to dissipate. Our surgeons will see you at appropriate intervals to monitor your progress.
Can I Combine a DIEP Flap With Other Procedures?
You can combine DIEP flap autologous reconstruction with other procedures. In fact, we often encourage it! Some patients achieve the best results through hybrid breast reconstruction. Hybrid breast reconstruction is essentially DIEP flap combined with breast implants. Other patients benefit from secondary breast shaping procedures to improve symmetry and achieve better contours.
What Should I Avoid After Surgery?
You should not stand straight at the waist for one week after DIEP flap surgery. Moderate activity is off the table for two weeks, and sexual activity is prohibited for three weeks. For the first four weeks, do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk or engage in heavy workouts like pilates. Steer clear of strenuous aerobic work for six weeks and abdominal exercises for at least eight weeks. Remember to follow the activity restrictions given to you by our surgeons to promote fast healing and optimal results.
Schedule Your Lone Tree DIEP Flap Consultation
Learn more about DIEP flap and your other breast reconstruction options during a consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeons. Call 303-706-1100 today to arrange your initial visit to our practice. The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery serves Lone Tree and Denver, Colorado. We also welcome patients who travel here from across the nation.