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Which breast reconstruction hurts less: Implants vs flaps?

Implants vs Flap Reconstruction


One misconception that is commonly held by patients and physicians alike, is that implant based reconstructions are less painful than the natural tissue reconstructions such as the DIEP flap.


Not so fast! A very recent paper published in this month’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal indicates that implant based breast reconstructions may be more painful than abdominally-based natural tissue free flap reconstructions.


Flaps Reconstruction Ohio

Flaps Reconstruction (photo: Memorial Plastic Surgery)

The study, done by researchers and physicians at UCLA in Los Angeles, California, looked at early postoperative pain after implant based and abdominally based natural tissue breast reconstructions. Their results show that the abdominally based natural tissue reconstructions had:


  • Lower pain scores as rated by the patient and
  • Less narcotic pain usage during the early postoperative period, when pain levels are generally the highest.


The main difference between these two types of operations, as far as pain-related issues might go, is that implant based reconstructions are limited to the same incisions through which the

Implants Reconstruction Ohio

Implants Reconstruction
(photo: Memorial Plastic Surgery)

mastectomies are performed. Abdominally-based operations involve both the chest and abdominal areas, making it logical to assume that they would result in greater pain. But this study interestingly finds the opposite to be true.


So if you’ve been told that your DIEP flap operation is going to be the more painful option, you might want to visit this link to read more about this study. As always, we invite questions or comments at [email protected].

About the Author

Ergun Kocak

Dr. Ergun Kocak, MD, MS, is a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the breast using DIEP, SIEA GAP, TUG, PAP, and direct-to-implant, in Columbus and Cincinnati, OH.
Follow Dr. Kocak on Twitter & Google+!

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