Complications in unilateral versus bilateral deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap breast reconstructions: A multicentre study

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Background: The deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap is the first choice for autologous breast reconstruction. The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to analyse the recipient-and donor-site complications and compare them between unilateral and bilateral DIEP flap breast reconstructions. Methods: Between January 2010 and December 2014, 530 DIEP flap reconstructions were performed in 426 consecutive patients in three Dutch hospitals. Major and minor complications were categorised into recipient-and donor-site complications. Post-operative flap re-explorations were recorded. Results: Of the total 530 DIEP flap reconstructions performed (322 unilateral, 104 bilateral), recipient-site complications were major in 9.8% and minor in 20.2%. The patients developed fat necrosis (unilateral 14.0% vs. bilateral 7.7%; OR 1.950; 95% CI 1.071-3.550; p = 0.027) and infection (unilateral 5.6% vs. bilateral 1.9%; OR 3.020; 95% CI 1.007-9.052; p = 0.039) at the recipient site significantly more frequently in the unilateral DIEP flap reconstructions. The donor-site complications were major in 0.9% and minor in 19.5% of the cases. Body mass index (BMI) was significantly associated with complications (donor site: OR 1.137; 95% CI 1.075 -1.201; p <0.001, recipient site: OR 1.073; 95% CI 1.009-1.142; p = 0.026). Flap re-explorations were performed in 5.7% (n = 30) of the cases. Total flap loss occurred in 3.0% (n = 16) of the cases. Conclusions: Bilateral DIEP flap breast reconstructions can be performed with the same percentage of complications and re-explorations as unilateral reconstructions and even result in less fat necrosis and infection at the recipient site. Higher BMIs are significantly associated with recipient- and donor-site complications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1298
JournalJournal of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Breast reconstruction
  • DIEP flap
  • Perforator flap
  • Free tissue flaps
  • Microsurgery
  • Complications


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