Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure performed to restore the shape, appearance, and size of a woman's breast following mastectomy or lumpectomy. More than just a physical transformation, it's often a crucial step towards healing and regaining confidence for many women who've battled breast cancer.

At The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction in Charleston, SC, we specialize in innovative tissue flap breast reconstruction techniques, including the DIEP flap, GAP flap, and PAP flap. Each method offers unique advantages, and the choice between them depends on a woman's individual needs, body shape, and personal preferences.

In this blog, we'll delve into the differences between these procedures to help you understand your options and make an informed decision about your reconstruction journey.

Flap vs Implant Reconstruction

There are two primary types of breast reconstruction: implant-based and flap-based. Implant-based reconstruction involves the insertion of a breast implant to reconstruct the shape of the breast. This type of reconstruction can be performed during the same surgical procedure as the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at a later date (delayed reconstruction).

Flap reconstruction, on the other hand, involves using a woman’s own tissue (a 'flap') from another part of her body to form a new breast mound. Flap reconstructions, like the DIEP flap, GAP flap, and PAP flap procedures, are complex surgeries that offer a more natural look and feel.

Many women who have undergone breast cancer treatment choose flap reconstruction over implant-based reconstruction for several reasons. Flap reconstruction results in breasts that change with age and weight fluctuation, feel more like natural breast tissue than breast implants, and can provide a sense of normalcy after a challenging battle with breast cancer. Flap reconstruction also eliminates the complications associated with breast implants, like rupture or capsular contracture.

What type of breast reconstruction method you choose and when you choose to do it is a deeply personal decision that should be made with the help of a skilled breast reconstruction specialist. At The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, we take pride in helping our patients make an informed decision that best suits their situation and preferences.

Understanding the DIEP Flap

The DIEP flap procedure is the most common of the flap-based breast reconstruction surgeries. It involves using skin, fat, and blood vessels from the lower abdomen, often referred to as the ''donor' area. The term DIEP stands for Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator, named for the specific blood vessels used to supply blood to the transferred tissue.

The tissue taken is then transplanted to the chest area, where microsurgical techniques are employed to reattach the blood vessels of the flap to the chest, ensuring healthy blood flow to the newly formed breast. In addition to providing a more natural look and feel, the procedure often enhances the shape of the donor site and gives the effect of an abdominoplasty, more commonly known as a 'tummy tuck.'

The DIEP flap procedure is well-suited for women who have enough lower abdominal tissue to use for reconstruction. Additionally, unlike the TRAM flap surgery that preceded the DIEP, this procedure spares the abdominal muscles. This allows a patient to maintain their abdominal strength and recover more comfortably.

Understanding The GAP Flap

The GAP (Gluteal Artery Perforator) flap procedure is similar to the DIEP flap in that it utilizes a woman's own skin, fat, and blood vessels for breast reconstruction. However, unlike the DIEP, this technique only uses tissue from the buttocks area.

The GAP flap procedure is ideal for women who don't have enough lower abdominal tissue for successful DIEP reconstruction or prefer not to undergo surgery on their abdomen. The procedure has the added benefit of lifting and sculpting the donor site area, giving you a result that's similar to a 'buttock lift.' Plus, the resulting scars can usually be easily hidden by clothing, including undergarments and swimsuits.

Due to the complex anatomy of the blood vessels in the buttock area, the GAP flap procedure is challenging to execute. However, The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction's highly skilled surgeons have completed hundreds of these procedures with a very high success rate, making GAP our second most commonly performed type of reconstruction.

Understanding The PAP Flap

The PAP (Profunda Artery Perforator) flap procedure involves taking skin, fat, and blood vessels from the donor site in the upper inner thigh, just below the buttock. It's our third most popular flap-based reconstruction technique because of its ability to provide natural-looking results with minimal scarring.

The PAP flap procedure is ideal for women who have enough tissue in the upper thigh area to reconstruct the breasts, but not in the abdomen. Additionally, most PAP flap donor sites heal quickly and with minimal scarring, and this donor site location can also decrease the likelihood of certain postoperative risks.

Which Flap Procedure is Right For Me

When it comes to choosing a breast reconstruction technique, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Your reconstruction is ultimately a personal decision based on your body shape, tissue availability, and individual goals. We'll help you evaluate all options available to make sure you're making an informed decision that's right for you.

At The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, we specialize in helping women choose the right reconstruction methods for their needs. Our team is committed to providing you with the best possible care throughout your breast reconstruction journey. In addition to breast reconstruction, our center also offers procedures like Resensation, which can improve breast sensation, and 3D nipple tattooing, a nonsurgical alternative to nipple reconstruction.

If you're considering breast reconstruction surgery, contact The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction today to learn more about your options. Our surgeons are committed to providing the best possible outcomes and helping you achieve results that look, feel, and function like natural breasts. We look forward to hearing from you!

Ready to take the next step in your reconstruction journey? The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction is ready to guide you through the process. Schedule your appointment online today and get started with South Carolina's top breast reconstruction specialists!