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When women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are considering mastectomy or partial mastectomy, they are often faced with the decision to undergo breast reconstruction to restore or reshape their breasts. Breast reconstruction techniques often involve breast implants or utilizing your own tissue known as the “flap” method. While almost everyone is aware of what breast implants are and what they can do, many women lack information about the flap method. Dr. Melissa Crosby is a microsurgeon who specializes in a breast reconstruction technique that involves removing a section of tissue from the abdomen to transfer to the chest known as the DIEP flap.

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The DIEP Procedure

Deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction naturally rebuilds the lost breast without the use of foreign objects or synthetic materials. Living fat, skin, and blood vessels are removed from the lower belly and transplanted to the chest to provide the necessary volume and shape. The DIEP flap results in a natural-looking and feeling breast with a connected, healthy blood supply. Women can choose this technique for either immediate or delayed reconstruction; however, the DIEP flap procedure can only be performed once.

How Does the DIEP Flap Differ From Other Flap Methods?

Before the DIEP technique, flap methods such as the TRAM and latissimus dorsi were used. While these approaches have resulted in many successful and natural-looking reconstructed breasts, they required the utilization of a muscle during transplantation. With the DIEP, no muscle is used to repair the breast; therefore the abdominal muscles are left intact. This technique preserves core strength and allows for a quicker and more comfortable recovery.

Are You a Candidate?

Unfortunately, mastectomy or lumpectomy is often the only way to treat breast cancer. All women who undergo one of these treatments are candidates for some form of breast reconstruction, and most of them qualify for immediate reconstruction (where the breast is rebuilt the same day as your mastectomy or lumpectomy procedure). While DIEP breast reconstruction is an option for many women, it is not a universal one. The DIEP flap method is not recommended for women who:

  • Are very thin and do not have adequate excess abdominal tissue
  • Have already undergone abdominal surgeries, such as abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
  • Have small abdominal blood vessels that cannot reconnect to the blood supply

The Benefits of DIEP

Women often choose the DIEP method because it can recreate a soft, natural breast made up of living tissue. This technique provides permanent results with less need for maintenance or eventual repeated surgery (as implants often require). It can also eliminate the need for tissue expanders in women who have undergone a mastectomy in the past. Additionally, women who opt for this flap method can enjoy an improved abdominal shape and a flatter, tighter belly.



If you have had, or are expecting to have either a mastectomy or partial mastectomy and wish to reconstruct your breasts, contact Dr. Melissa Crosby at (832) 939-8500 to set up a consultation. Dr. Crosby is a board-certified microvascular surgeon dedicated to helping women regain their confidence and bodies after cancer.