DIEP Flap- Thoughts, problems etc

Hi Everyone,

I was wondering if anybody had any experiences they’d be happy to share with my in regards to having a diep flap reconstruction.

A bit of background about me, I was diagnosed in Nov 2021, had chemo and then a skin sparing mastectomy in May 2022 with an immediate implant reconstruction. Then 5 weeks later I had to have the implant removed and a smaller one put in due to complications.

The consultant who did my initial surgery always said to me that a DIEP flap would probably better suit my natural shape and now the time has come to consider options as I am done with treatment.

Basically I am looking for information on:

Recovery time

Any issues to be made aware of when choosing the surgery

complications that can arise

Are you happy with the outcome?

The surgeon I’ve spoken too has suggested that the flap be used to ‘match’ my natural side, but having had 2 children and breast fed it’s not what it used too be and I was told that the natural side could be ‘revamped’ so to speak, but he suggested that’s not easy etc. Just wanted to gather some feedback so when I next see a surgeon I am more prepared with questions etc.

Thank you in advance!

Welcome to the forum , there are ladies active on the forum who have had this operation . Maybe you could post in the surgery section too ? Best of luck whatever you decide x

I had a diep reconstruction on 8 Sept 2022, easy to remember as the queen died that day. It’s about seven to eight hours surgery. There’s a breast cancer surgeon up top and a plastic surgeon down at the tum end. The cancer surgeon takes the breast off, leaving the skin, then the plastic surgeon takes a flap from the tum and reattaches it using a microscope to the blood vessels in the middle chest. I was fairly slim, but had enough tum to reconstruct my quite small 34B bosom.

As I was 67 at the time of my op, I found it quite tiring, but I had a good experience in intensive care being well looked after. But you are woken up every hour through the night to check the flap is still ok. I ended up with some sort of potassium or sodium deficiency which made me forget lots of information I would normally know such as my mobile phone number. 

So the day itself was hard work. Then I stayed in hospital another two nights, so I went home on Sunday via hospital transport. 

At home it was quite difficult as I was on my own, with a large scar from one hip to the other. I found it quite awkward to walk upright without it hurting a bit but I had painkillers. the breast was painless as it has no nerves in it.

After a while I started going out with my husband with two sticks either side to support me, but on one occasion we went to Tesco and he was in front of me with a shopping trolley going down a ramp. Instead of pushing it off, he just stayed there, and I went straight into his back at speed. 

After that, my diep scar split open. It took about two months to heal properly. So moral is. - don’t be tempted to do anything which may result in you knocking into anything with your tum until it is fully healed. And that will probably take at least two months. Otherwise you will be doing a lot of wound dressing potentially. 

I am happy with my scar as I don’t scar badly and although it’s red it’s looking good. But if you don’t always heal well this could be a problem. You also need a lot of patience and take paracetamols every four hours too if it helps but not more than you should in 24 hours as too many can be dangerous. 

The breast itself looks nothing like my other one and there’s the possibility you will want more surgery later. I would not do it too early if you are going to do it at all. My breasts being small were easier than some maybe. Also I wasn’t too fat to get bad “dog ears” at the ends of my hips at the end of the scar. I do have a bit of a shelf where they rejoined the skin from my tum to the bit lower down but in clothing all I can see is a remarkably flat tum.

I have had two breast surgeries before and I had forgotten that this caused surgical allergies to glue and dressings they use plus surgical tape. So if you have any allergies, let the surgeons know. That caused me lots of itching for months. But I was probably unlucky. Hope you go for the diep as I like the fact my new bosom is warm and I woke up from surgery seeing I had a breast rather than I had had a mastectomy. Result!

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