The history of DIEP flap breast reconstruction, as with all medicine and surgery, has certainly evolved over the years. Patient recovery and healing, post operative outcomes and efficacy of the surgery has likely played a significant part in that evolution. The first attempts at flap reconstruction date back as far the 1800s. The advantage of using the deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP) as a means of breast reconstruction was primarily promoted by two surgeons in the mid 1990’s. Dr. Phillip Blondeel of Belgium and Dr. Robert Allen of the U.S. were the two surgeons who convinced their fellow plastic surgeons of the advantages of DIEP flap over TRAM flap as it did not use the rectus abdominis muscles thereby giving patients a more desirable outcome by not sacrificing their “sit-up” muscle.
Many Must Travel to Find a Qualified Micro-Surgeon
DIEP flap surgery is complex and involved. It takes specialized skill and equipment as seen in the photo above from the operating room with Dr. Gary Arishta at PRMA in San Antonio, Tx. For that reason, many women must travel far for this surgery. Shortly after my mastectomy and knowing I wanted to move forward with DIEP flap surgery I was faced with the possibility of finding a plastic surgeon overseas because of a pending move to the Belgium area. I contacted Dr. Blondeel through his website to possibly do my reconstruction. The response from him was very quickly returned with a positive reply. As it turned out, the overseas assignment dissolved and I researched and found PRMA for my reconstruction.
I mentioned Dr. Blondeel to my DIEP flap surgeon, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, at my initial consult with him. He was very familiar with his skill and talent. These top notch surgeons are well connected within their own communities and can speak well of each other. They know the hard work, years of training, passion and dedication they have put into their field. My breast surgeon was familiar with PRMA as well and endorsed my decision to travel to have my reconstructive DIEP surgery done there.
Dr. Allen has a comprehensive website that outlines his own credentials, success rate and procedures as well. Dr. Allen and PRMA both have many informative videos about the DIEP flap process. Dr. Allen began his practice in Louisiana where there is still a center but he is now practicing at the facility in New York.
Shared Stories of Success
I encourage any of you reading my website or closed Facebook group to share your stories of success regarding your micro surgeon and DIEP flap experience. I hope to add more of these qualified surgeons to my resource page as I do more research and hear more success stories. Shared information translates into the knowledge and empowerment required to make a well informed decision. These are just a few of the physicians I have researched and would wholeheartedly endorse because of their credentials and practice.
“A Super Sub-Specialty”
Are you having a difficult time finding a reputable DIEP surgeon in your home town? The answer is probably yes unless you live in a town where one of these physicians happens to practice. The truth of it is this; This is a surgery that requires intense, specialized training as described by Dr. Allan.
Research and Choose Wisely
Consider the criterion that I posted in Choosing Your Breast Reconstruction Surgeon. This is not about choosing a plastic surgeon. There are many talented plastic surgeons throughout the country. I am talking specifically about trained micro-surgeons who work as a team and have done many successful DIEP flap procedures. There are platforms and discussion groups on social media about failed procedures and plenty of pictures to back that up. I can’t say this with certainty but perhaps they didn’t use the same criterion for choosing a doctor that I did. I stand by the reconstruction surgeon and group that I chose and I know there are many other successful stories from other patients about qualified physicians around the country and even the world. But you have to seek them out, research their credentials, success rate, and experience and go to them.
History is on our Side
Breast cancer patients who are facing mastectomy or patients who are BRCA positive and are considering breast reconstruction surgery are fortunate to be living in this era when the history of DIEP flap is on our side. I anticipate many more history making developments to continue from these qualified micro-surgeons who are rebuilding lives after breast cancer.