Patients Asking Patients About DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction
By: Courtney Floyd
For every patient considering breast reconstruction there are many questions and concerns. We strongly encourage our patients to connect with others who have completed their breast reconstruction journeys for personal insight and encouragement!
Molly is scheduled to undergo DIEP flap breast reconstruction soon. She recently sat down with Mercedes who completed her DIEP flap journey to get personal insight into what to expect following surgery.
Here’s an overview of the questions raised by Molly:
What led you to choose DIEP flap breast reconstruction over other options?
Breast reconstruction helps many women feel whole again after breast cancer surgery. Sadly, only about 25% of women are informed of ALL their options. Implants are the most commonly performed method of reconstruction available today but may not always be the best option for a patient. Procedures like the DIEP flap offer patients a safe and natural alternative to implants and offer patients many benefits. You can read more about why most patients choose DIEP flap over implant reconstruction here.
What was the recovery like?
As with any surgery, recovery depends a lot on the individual. Typical recovery from DIEP flap reconstruction is not as difficult as some patients are led to believe. Thanks to our ERAS protocol, patients are healing faster and experience less pain following surgery. In fact, few patients require narcotic pain medication following DIEP flap surgery. You can learn more about what to expect during the 6-week recovery period here.
What was your range of motion like after surgery?
Stretching before and after surgery is important to keep your muscles and joints healthy and to avoid any range of motion complications. Following surgery, patients will be given range of motion exercise recommendations to ensure a healthy recovery.
How was your experience with surgical drains following surgery?
All breast reconstruction patients should expect to have surgical drains for at least a week following surgery. Most patients say that the drains are slightly uncomfortable but are not intolerable. Although drains are not the most convenient thing, they are necessary to help the healing process and are necessary to prevent problems like abnormal fluid collections.
How soon can you return to work after surgery?
It is important to allow your body the time it needs to heal after surgery. Some patients feel well enough to return to low-impact jobs after only two weeks post DIEP flap reconstruction. However, some patients wait until they are completely healed (usually around six weeks) before returning to work.
Do you have any breast feeling or sensation now that surgery is completed?
When breast reconstruction is performed using flaps like the DIEP flap, sensory nerves are transferred with the flap to the chest and reconnected to nerves cut by the mastectomy. This extra step provides patients with a better chance of regaining feeling to the new breast, in a shorter amount of time. Although it will never be like what mother nature provided, it is a huge benefit to patients to have some breast feeling return following a mastectomy.
Were you able to wear a normal bra after healing?
Whether you are having immediate or delayed breast reconstruction, you will most likely need new bras after your surgery. You can find tips on finding the best bra for you here.
Did you lose any core strength or abilities?
At PRMA, we take extra care to preserve the abdominal motor nerves during DIEP flap reconstruction. This extra step ensures the function of the abdominal muscle will remain intact. Patients do not lose any abdominal function and can resume normal physical activity once cleared from the surgeon. You can find more information on this here.
Are your scars easily covered?
In most cases, DIEP flap breast reconstruction scars are easily hidden when wearing underwear or a swimsuit.
Have questions or comments about DIEP flap breast reconstruction? Let us know in the comments below.
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