About DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap reconstruction is a type of breast reconstruction in which the patient’s own tissue is used to create a new breast after a mastectomy. Skin, fat and tiny blood vessels are taken from the abdominal area and transferred to the chest without sacrificing any of the abdominal muscles.

A DIEP flap is similar to a TRAM flap, but requires only the removal of skin and fat; no abdominal muscle is rotated or removed. The blood vessels, or perforators, required to keep the tissue alive lie just beneath or within the abdominal muscle. They are carefully removed and the muscle is protected.

After the skin, tissue and blood vessels (together, known as the "flap") have been removed from the abdomen, the flap is transplanted to the patient's chest using microsurgery. The plastic surgeon reconnects the tiny blood vessels and shapes the skin and tissue to create the new breast. As no abdominal muscle is removed or transferred, the risk of developing an abdominal hernia is reduced. There is also significantly less pain associated with a DIEP flap, in general allowing DIEP patients to recover more quickly than TRAM flap patients, and helping them to maintain long-term abdominal strength.

Many women who undergo DIEP flap reconstruction enjoy the added benefit of a flatter abdomen. Since the reconstruction involves the removal of skin and fat from the belly, the abdominal contour is improved, giving the patient a result similar to that from a tummy tuck.

As with all types of breast reconstruction, DIEP flap reconstruction usually requires two or three stages of procedures performed a few months apart in order complete the reconstruction process and to obtain the best cosmetic result.

These illustrations are meant to provide you with general information about DIEP flap reconstruction and should not be used in place of personal medical advice; please consult with your breast surgeon and your plastic surgeon about your particular health questions and concerns.