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Latissimus flap breast reconstruction uses skin, fat and muscle (latissimus dorsi) from the back, beneath the shoulder blade area. The tissue ("flap") is brought around to the chest to create a new breast.
Following the mastectomy the patient is turned onto her stomach or side. A section of skin, fat and muscle is then lifted off the back from below the shoulder blade region. This tissue (or "flap") is then tunneled to the front of the chest to create the new breast. The patient is then turned onto her back a second time to complete the shaping of the new breast.
Many patients undergoing a latissimus flap procedure also require a tissue expander for additional volume. The expander is replaced by a permanent implant at a second procedure down the line.
The procedure leaves a scar on the mid-back region below the shoulder blade that can sometimes be seen through a tank-top, swimsuit or sundress. The upper back can be numb or for a few months until the nerves grow back. Women who are very active in sports should know that this procedure can impact your ability to participate in such activities like golf, climbing, swimming, or tennis.