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Unilateral and Bilateral Breast Reconstruction with Pedicled TRAM Flaps: An Outcomes Analysis of 188 Consecutive Patients

Jordan E Ireton, Jon A Kluft, Jeffrey A Ascherman
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Global Open 2013, 1 (2): 1-7

BACKGROUND: The abdomen remains a popular donor site for autologous tissue breast reconstruction. Recently, however, some authors have questioned whether the pedicled transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap should remain a first-line reconstruction option.

METHODS: Between 1998 and 2009, 188 women underwent breast reconstruction with pedicled TRAM flaps by the senior author (J.A.A.). All TRAM flaps involved reinforcement of the abdominal wall repair with polypropylene mesh. Reconstruction was unilateral in 164 patients and bilateral in 24 patients, yielding a total of 212 flaps.

RESULTS: The mean follow-up period was 36 months. There were no complete flap losses. Overall hernia rate for the series was 1.6%, and overall abdominal bulge rate was 0.5%. When combining all types of morbidity, 38 unilateral (23.2%) and zero bilateral TRAM flap patients experienced flap site complications (P = 0.005), and 16 unilateral (9.8%) and 5 bilateral patients (20.8%) experienced donor site complications (P = 0.155). For morbidity that required a return to the operating room, the overall rate was 4.3% for unilateral TRAM flap patients and 4.2% for bilateral TRAM flap patients. Flap site morbidity was significantly associated with obesity, former or active smoking, and receiving 2 or more adjuvant therapies. Donor site morbidity was significantly associated with obesity.

CONCLUSIONS: The pedicled TRAM flap continues to be an excellent option for breast reconstruction. Complication rates for both unilateral and bilateral TRAM flaps were low in this series, with no complete flap losses and just 4.3% of patients requiring a return to the operating room secondary to morbidity.

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