DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforators) abdominal flap surgery is a type of breast reconstruction surgery performed here at Dr. Luke Cusimano Plastic Surgery. Breast reconstruction is for women who have lost a breast to disease, such as breast cancer. With DIEP abdominal flap surgery, the breast is rebuilt by tissue from the patient’s abdomen. The procedure is beginning to replace the TRAM, or transverse rectus abdominis muscle flap procedure, which also uses tissue from the abdomen. However, the new procedure allows the patient to retain more muscle function and lowers the risk of abdominal hernia. The patient also has less downtime and less pain. Finally, the DIEP procedure also results in a flatter and more natural-looking abdomen.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR DIEP SURGERY
Well before the surgery, the patient has a consultation with Dr. Cusimano, who tells her what the surgery entails and how she should prepare for it. This includes giving up smoking, alcohol, and at least temporarily stopping medications that can interfere with postoperative healing.
The patient should exercise regularly and make sure she takes in enough proteins, vitamins, and minerals to shorten her recovery period and support the healing of the surgical wounds. A well-nourished patient spends less time in the hospital after her surgery and is at lower risk for complications, including infection.
During the time before the surgery, the patient should tell her employer that she’ll be taking time off from work and arrange for someone to take her to and from the hospital and stay with her for at least a few days after the operation to help with the tasks of daily life. She should arrange to have the area around her bed or the place where she’ll recuperate stocked with reading material and other entertainment and prepare her bathroom with implements such as a shower chair or even grab rails.
The preoperative period is also the time to order loose clothing that is easy to take on or off, fill the prescriptions of any medications she will need after the operation, and prepare meals and freeze them ahead of time. She will need to fast the night before the surgery and should have a bag packed with medication, insurance cards, ID cards, loose and comfortable clothing, reading material, and other things she’ll need while in the hospital. She should wear comfortable clothing to the hospital and not wear makeup or jewelry.
HOW LONG IS RECOVERY TIME?
Recovery from DIEP abdominal flap surgery takes about six to eight weeks after a stay in the hospital that lasts about five days. Before she leaves the hospital, the patient is given instructions to help her heal from the surgery. It may still take as much as a year for surgical wounds to heal completely. As she heals, the patient should keep realistic expectations as to the look and feel of her reconstructed breast, for there may be numbness in the area and scars that don’t fade all the way. Still, the majority of patients are very pleased with the outcome of DIEP abdominal flap surgery.