DIEP Flap (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Flap)

DIEP Flap diagram

The DIEP flap microsurgical procedure is the most advanced form of breast reconstruction surgery available today. It is the preferred reconstructive technique performed in selected patients, including those receiving radiation treatments. The surgery uses the patient's own abdominal skin and fat (similar to a tummy tuck/abdominoplasty) to reconstruct a natural, warm, soft breast after mastectomy.

Unlike the pedicled TRAM flap, the DIEP flap preserves all abdominal muscles.  Only abdominal skin and fat are removed. Patients experience less pain after surgery because of this, enjoy a faster recovery and maintain their abdominal strength long-term.  Patients typically stay in the hospital for 2 nights after this procedure.

The skin and fat below the belly button feels very similar to breast tissue in texture and feel. It is the perfect choice to replace the breast tissue removed by the mastectomy. The blood vessels ("perforators") that keep this skin and fat alive lie just beneath or within the abdominal muscle. A small incision is made in the abdominal muscle to access these vessels.

The prepared tissue ("flap") is then disconnected from the body and transplanted to the chest using microsurgery. The surgeons then shape the tissue to create the new breast with appropriate size and design.

Women also enjoy the added benefit of a flatter abdomen with results that mimic a "tummy tuck". The risk of abdominal complications such as bulging and hernia is also very small, much smaller than with the TRAM flap.

There are many doctors in the United States performing reconstructive breast surgery, however a small minority of plastic surgeons routinely perform the DIEP procedure due to the technical difficulty of the procedure. All of our plastic surgeons at UC Davis Health are trained in microsurgery and we perform this operation routinely.

For more information or consultation, please call our clinic at 916-734-7844.