Increase of major complications with a longer ischemia time in breast reconstruction with a free deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap

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Background The deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap is one of the most used free flaps for postmastectomy breast reconstruction. Prolonged ischemia can result in (partial) flap loss. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between ischemia time and postoperative complications of DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Methods A retrospective study of all patients who received a breast reconstructionwith aDIEP flap atMaastricht University Medical Center in theNetherlands, between January 2010 and June 2017 (n = 677). The flaps were divided into two groups: flaps with an ischemia time less than 60 min and those with 60 min or more. Recipient site complications, in particular major complications equal to re-exploration, and partial or total flap loss were the primary outcome measures. Results In 23.9% of the 677 included DIEP flaps, the ischemia time was 60 min or longer. Within this group, a complication of the recipient site occurred in 30.9% of the flaps. A major complication occurred in 17.3% of the flaps with 60 min or more ischemia time.With regard to the flaps with less than 60-min ischemia time, a complication occurred in 22.1% of the cases of which 8.9%would be considered amajor complication. A significant association was found between ischemia time and major complications on univariate (p value = 0.003) and multivariate analyses (p value = 0.016). Conclusions This study demonstrates that an ischemia time less than 60 min is associated with a significantly lower risk of major recipient site complications compared to an ischemia time of 60 min or more. Level of evidence: Level III, therapeutic, risk/prognostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Plastic Surgery
Issue number2
Early online date8 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • free flap
  • deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap
  • DIEP
  • Complications
  • ischemia time

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