Center for Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction

Surgeon Perfects New Method for Reconstruction

Aug 1995 | Andree Herrington
The Common Thread - Vol. 2 #4

Dr. Robert Allen, a micro plastic surgeon from LSU Medical School, is offering mastectomy patients a new technique in reconstructive surgery. Since 1992, Allen has been performing breast reconstruction using skin and fat from the stomach area, buttock, lateral thigh, or back without removing the muscle under the tissue used to reconstruct the breast. 

Allen has been able to modify the TRAM flap procedure that he, as well as other plastic surgeons, used previously by removing a blood vessel from the muscle instead of sacrificing the muscle. He then uses just the blood vessel to reconnect the blood flow in the newly constructed breast to the other vessels in the breast area. The missing vessel in the muscle easily regenerates leaving no damage to the muscle. 

Even though breast reconstructions created by the TRAM flap are successful, the areas where the muscle has been removed may develop hernias, muscle weakness, and chronic pain. Additional surgery may be necessary to repair the hernias. By leaving the muscle intact, Allen has eliminated these problems while still reconstructing breasts from patients' own body fat instead of using silicon implants. 

When the patient has little body fat, the best results are usually achieved by using the buttock. This procedure is completed with little or no disfiguring or complications. If the patient has body fat in the abdominal region, this fat can be used, resulting in a "tummy tuck' for the patient, as well as a reconstructed breast with no fear of hernias in the stomach area later.

Any size breast can be reconstructed using this method in addition to bilateral reconstruction when both breasts have been removed. The surgery can be performed at the time of the mastectomy or at any time later. The surgery usually takes a little longer than a regular TRAM flap, but the recovery period is usually shorter, and there is much less post-operative pain.

Allen has performed over 300 successful breast reconstructions using this method since 1992. He has presented his method at various medical seminars and conventions and has demonstrated the procedure to other doctors around the country. Several doctors are working with Allen to learn firsthand how to use this new method in their practices.

Many LBCTF members may remember seeing Allen and Bridget Neigel, one of his first patients, on a local television show explaining the procedure.