Innovative Breast Reconstruction Uses Natural Tissues and
Improves Quality of Life
Robert J. Allen, M.D., FACS
What price should a breast cancer patient pay to regain a
normal body profile after surgery? According to Robert J.
Allen, M.D., FACS, the price should not include unnecessary
risks with her health and her quality of life. "A new
and very safe alternative to artificial implants or traditional
fat transfer is available," he says. "Per/orator
flaps eliminate the possibility of rejection, implant breakdown
and permanent muscle loss resulting from traditional procedures."
Dr. Allen is the inventor of the perforator flap procedures
for breast reconstruction. "The benefits of the perforator
flap procedures are dramatic," he says. "It uses
the patient's own tissues and, unlike the traditional fat
transfer method (TRAM), it does not require that muscle be
removed from the donor site. As a result, the patient experiences
no muscle function loss, no hernia formation, decreased postoperative
pain and a shortened hospital stay. The main difference of
the perforator flap is that a meticulous microvascular technique
It is the microvascular technique that makes the perforator
flap procedure a superior alternative to TRAM. In the early
1990s, Dr. Allen applied his creative talents to improving
the older reconstructive procedures. "Since the breast
mound is made up of skin and fat," Dr. Allen reasoned,
"we should be able to reconstruct it with a flap made
up only of skin and fat. But, because the blood vessel network
that nourishes the flap comes up through muscles, conventional
approaches removed muscle from the donor site as well."
He found that certain blood vessels, called perforators, could
be freed without causing long-term damage to the muscle. "The
procedure is intricate and time consuming but the results
are extraordinary," reports Dr. Allen who has performed
hundreds of these procedures with a 99.5 percent success rate.
The perforator flaps can be donated from a number of sites
on the body: the lower abdomen, the upper buttock, the lower
buttock, the back, and the lateral thigh. The lower abdomen
is the more common choice, resulting in a tummy tuck as well
as breast reconstruction (DIEP flap).
"The perforator flap is an amazingly positive thing we
can do for the breast cancer patient," says Dr. Allen.
"It allows her to return to her usual style of life,
feeling attractive and confident in day and evening clothes,
swimsuits, and lingerie, often with an even better figure
than she had before. And the physical price she pays for the
procedure? A scar that fades over time."
Breast replacement therapy can be performed during the breast
removal surgery or at a later date. It doesn't matter what
kind of mastectomy the patient has had, or what kind of scar
was left behind. Breast reconstruction can begin even if considerable
time has passed since the initial surgery.
For further information, visit www.diepflap.com or contact
Dr. Allen's office at 4429 Clara Street, Suite 440, New Orleans,
La., 70115, phone 504-894-2900, or 888-890-DIEP (3437).
Good Housekeeping Volume 230, Number 3, March 2000