DIEPA stands for Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Artery and is an artery which goes through the abdominal area. A DIEPA flap surgery is an advanced microsurgical technique used in breast reconstruction following mastectomy (surgery that removes your breast to treat or prevent breast cancer). It is a complex surgery that requires a surgeon who is skilled and experienced in the procedure. DIEPA flap surgery involves removing blood vessels, fat and skin from the lower abdomen to rebuild the breast. DIEPA is the preferred choice of treatment in older women, especially women who have ample fat tissue following pregnancy.
During this procedure, a flap of skin is cut from the lower belly region of the patient. As the flap needs a good supply of blood vessels to survive, the surgeon will carefully reconnect the flap-blood vessels to blood vessels in your chest through microsurgery (surgery using a microscope). Finally, the flap is sculpted by the surgeon to create a breast. The approximate duration of the surgery is 8 hours and the patient is usually discharged in about 5 days.
DIEPA flap surgery has the advantage of a much faster recovery than a muscle-sacrificing flap procedure such as TRAM. Also, the procedure exposes women to a lower risk of losing abdominal muscle strength. An added benefit to women with ample post-pregnancy fat (along the lower portion of their abdomen) is that this procedure paves the way for a flat and tight tummy. Lastly, a DIEPA flap provides a more natural appearance to the breast when compared to an implant.
Risks & Complications
As is the case with any surgery, DIEPA flap surgery carries a few risks. Risks specific to DIEPA surgery include instances of limited blood supply to the newly attached flap tissue leading to necrosis (tissue breakdown) and the formation of lumps in the reconstructed breast. This procedure also carries a slight risk of abdominal hernia, even though no muscle is used to create the breast.