Facing a breast cancer diagnosis and the prospect of mastectomy is a challenging and life-altering experience for many women. Fortunately, advancements in medical science and surgical techniques have given rise to a highly innovative and patient-centered solution: DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery. The Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) flap procedure is a groundbreaking surgical approach that not only recreates the lost breast but also offers women a chance to regain their physical and emotional well-being. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the intricacies of DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery, discussing its benefits, considerations, and the transformative impact it has on the lives of breast cancer survivors.

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Understanding DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery

DIEP flap breast reconstruction is a sophisticated microsurgical technique used to rebuild a breast after a mastectomy. The procedure involves the transplantation of abdominal tissue, including skin and fat, to construct a new breast mound. What sets DIEP flap apart from other breast reconstruction methods is its use of the body’s own tissue, avoiding the need for implants, and providing a more natural look and feel to the reconstructed breast.

The DIEP Flap Procedure:

Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) Flap: The procedure takes its name from the DIEP flap, which is a crucial element. Surgeons meticulously dissect the blood vessels (perforators) within the abdominal tissue while preserving the abdominal muscles, creating a flap that can be moved to the chest area.


 DIEP flap surgery is classified as microsurgery, as it involves intricate techniques to reconnect blood vessels in the abdominal tissue to blood vessels in the chest area. This ensures that the transplanted tissue remains nourished and viable.

Flap Transfer:

After the DIEP flap is isolated and its blood supply is reestablished, it is transferred to the chest, where it is shaped and sutured to create a new breast mound.

Aesthetic Considerations:

 The reconstructed breast is carefully designed to mimic the shape, size, and contour of the natural breast, providing an aesthetic outcome that closely resembles the unaffected breast.

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Advantages of DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

Natural Look and Feel: One of the primary advantages of DIEP flap reconstruction is that it provides a breast that looks and feels more natural than implant-based reconstructions. Since it uses the patient’s own tissue, it mimics the characteristics of a real breast.

Reduced Risk of Complications: Unlike implant-based reconstructions, which may require replacements or adjustments over time, DIEP flap surgery offers a more permanent solution, reducing the risk of complications and the need for future surgeries.

Abdominal Contour Improvement: Many women appreciate the added benefit of a tummy tuck-like effect, as the abdominal tissue is removed for the reconstruction, resulting in a flatter and more toned abdomen.

Long-Term Satisfaction: Studies have shown that patients who undergo DIEP flap reconstruction tend to report higher levels of satisfaction and quality of life, often exceeding those who opt for alternative reconstruction methods.

Avoidance of Implants: For patients concerned about the potential risks and complications associated with breast implants, DIEP flap surgery offers a natural alternative.


General anaesthetic

Surgery Time

6 Hours




Recovery garments

Bra, compression garment for abdomen

Hospital stay

3-5 nights


1 week and 2 weeks after discharge

Return to desk-based work

2-3 weeks

Return to driving

4 weeks

Return to sport

6-8 weeks

Candidates for DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

DIEP flap reconstruction is an option for many women who have undergone a mastectomy due to breast cancer. However, not all patients are suitable candidates. Ideal candidates for DIEP flap reconstruction typically meet the following criteria:

Sufficient Abdominal Tissue: Patients need to have enough excess abdominal tissue to create a breast mound. This requirement may not be met by very slender individuals.

Good General Health: As with any surgery, patients should be in overall good health to tolerate the procedure and the associated recovery.

Non-Smokers: Smoking can impair blood flow, which is critical in microsurgical procedures. Patients are usually required to quit smoking before surgery.

Patient Preference: Ultimately, the choice of breast reconstruction method should align with the patient’s personal preferences and goals.

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The DIEP Flap Procedure: What to Expect

Consultation: The process begins with a consultation with a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. During this meeting, the surgeon will assess the patient’s suitability for DIEP flap reconstruction and discuss the surgical process, expectations, and potential risks.

Preoperative Planning: Once the decision is made to proceed with the surgery, preoperative planning includes discussions about the desired breast size, shape, and the placement of the incisions.

Mastectomy and Immediate Reconstruction: In many cases, DIEP flap reconstruction is performed at the same time as a mastectomy, allowing patients to wake up from surgery with a new breast. This immediate reconstruction option can provide a sense of wholeness and minimize the emotional impact of losing a breast.

Surgery: The procedure itself typically takes several hours, during which the surgeon carefully removes the abdominal tissue and reconnects the blood vessels to ensure adequate blood supply to the transplanted tissue.

Hospital Stay: Patients will typically spend several days in the hospital to ensure that the newly reconstructed breast is healing properly and that the transplanted tissue is receiving sufficient blood flow.

Recovery: Recovering from DIEP flap reconstruction takes several weeks. Patients should avoid strenuous activities during this time, and any drains used to remove excess fluid from the surgical site will be monitored.

Follow-Up Care: Regular follow-up appointments with the surgical team will be necessary to monitor healing and assess the success of the reconstruction.

Psychological and Emotional Impact

Breast cancer and mastectomy can have profound emotional and psychological effects on a woman’s self-esteem and self-image. The choice of breast reconstruction plays a vital role in addressing these concerns. DIEP flap breast reconstruction not only restores physical wholeness but also helps to mend the emotional scars left by cancer.

Restoring Self-Esteem: Many patients report feeling more complete and confident after DIEP flap reconstruction, as it provides a natural-looking breast that aligns with their self-image.

Improved Quality of Life: Reconstructive surgery, particularly when using a patient’s own tissue, has been shown to have a positive impact on overall quality of life and emotional well-being.

Sense of Control: Choosing to undergo breast reconstruction can empower women to regain control over their bodies and their lives, a significant factor in the emotional healing process.

DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery is a remarkable advancement in the field of breast cancer treatment. It offers a comprehensive solution that goes beyond physical restoration to address the emotional and psychological aspects of breast cancer survivorship. By using a patient’s own tissue to recreate a natural-looking and feeling breast, this innovative procedure empowers women to take control of their journey to recovery, restoring not only their bodies but also their self-esteem and self-confidence. With ongoing advancements in surgical techniques and continued research, the field of breast reconstruction continues to evolve, providing hope and transformative outcomes for breast cancer survivors.

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