5 Things to Look for: Hospital, PRS: DIEP flap Surgery
Here is your list of 5 things to look for in a hospital and plastic reconstructive surgeon (PRS) before your DIEP flap surgery. The list could fill a book; however, the purpose of this blog is to hit on five important topics that may well be priorities on the patients’ list of items to inquire about before surgery.
No. 1 ~ Hospital Accreditation
This might not be a question that you would even think to ask. But, the reputation and accreditation of the hospital facility that your plastic surgeon practices at should be of great importance to you for your reconstructive surgery. Odds are, you have been extremely wrapped up in the details of your breast reconstruction surgery and the outcome itself, but knowing the official endorsement of the facility is just as important. When hospitals are accredited through national organizations, it translates into a better experience for the patient. Safety measures are in place to optimize patient well being. Patients want accountability when it comes to their hospital stay and care. Hospital accreditation can be reviewed at some of the following websites:
No. 2 ~ Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon’s Accreditation
The accreditation of the plastic surgeon that will be performing your breast reconstruction is equally as important. Two resources that have been invaluable to me are the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery. You can search for your plastic reconstructive surgeon on either site but note that just because they are not listed on the site does not mean they are not a member of that organization. If you do not find a name listed after your search on either site, call the organization directly. Explain to them that you are researching plastic reconstructive surgeons for your procedure and are curious to know if they are, in fact, a member of the particular society. Each site has a patient tab where you can search the plastic reconstructive surgeon’s name. Many times there is a direct link to your chosen reconstructive surgeon’s website. Here are the links to these two important associations.
No. 3 ~ Technology your Surgeon will be using to Optimize Surgical Success
I know for my phase one surgery it was an important part of surgical success when I found out that my plastic reconstructive surgeon used a technology called SPY. The SPY Elite Fluorescence Imaging System allows the microsurgeon to assess the quality of blood flow in real time, or more technically stated, intraoperative blood perfusion. Better quality blood flow in DIEP flap translates into more successful reconstructive surgery and lower complication rates. Postoperative complications are minimized with this technology. The reconstructive surgeon and the patient can have greater peace of mind when they know that advanced technologies like SPY Elite are available at the facility where they will be performing DIEP flap surgery.
No. 4 ~ Specialized Nursing Staff on the Recovery Floor
This was not a detail I thought to ask at my surgical consult for my breast reconstruction. I found out through my plastic reconstructive surgeons own nurse that the floor I would be on after surgery would have a dedicated staff that was very responsive to the patient and the detailed recovery of DIEP flap breast reconstruction. The nurses had a keen sense of monitoring each aspect of patient recovery, not the least important was checking the Doppler frequently the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery to make sure the perforators were continuing to surge with blood flow. Keeping those flaps alive those first few hours after surgery was paramount! They knew exactly when patients were encouraged to get out of bed and begin walking the floor to get the body back to a normal functioning level after the long surgery. They gently encouraged patients to use the breathing spirometer to keep the lungs clear after surgery and prevent possible fluid buildup. I was very pleased that I was in a private room with all the coming and going of specialists in and out constantly monitoring my progress. Having a dedicated nursing staff who worked with DIEP flap breast reconstruction patients indicated to me that the goal of both the hospital facility and the plastic reconstructive surgeon was the best possible patient outcomes.
No. 5 ~ Communication and Attentiveness to Caregivers
The support system for the spouse, partner, family member, or friend that accompanies a DIEP flap patient to the hospital is a crucial part of patient recovery but often times an overlooked entity. There are many details that caregivers must deal with. What will their comfort level be while spending long hours waiting for surgical news about their loved one? How will the communication take place between your plastic reconstructive surgeon and your caregiver after surgery is completed? The ease of access, as well as the cost of the parking facility is something I frequently tell patients to find out about before surgery since you will likely be in hospital for a few days. Is there dining or food in the hospital, or at least within walking distance for caregivers? What about the room accommodations? Will there be an extra recliner or place for your caregiver to stay should they decided to spend a night or two to be with you when you recover?
I encourage you to bring these topics up as part of important things to know about your hospital facility and plastic and reconstructive surgeon before you move forward with your DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Knowing the answers to these questions and topics will give you and your caregiver additional peace of mind prior to your surgery.