'Reconstruction: Before or after postmastectomy radiotherapy?' A systematic review of the literature

Judith Berbers, Angela van Baardwijk, Ruud Houben, Esther Heuts, Marjolein Smidt, Kristien Keymeulen, Maud Bessems, Stefania Tuinder, Liesbeth J. Boersma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

59 Citations (Web of Science)


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this review is to investigate the effect of timing of the reconstruction and radiotherapy, with respect to complication rate and cosmetic outcome, with a special focus on the timing of the placement of the definite implant. METHODS: PubMed was searched for publications between January 2000 and December 2012. Of 37 eligible studies, timing of reconstruction, type, and incidence of complications were recorded. First, we calculated the weighted mean including confidence intervals for complications and cosmetic outcome overall, and for the following subgroups: (1) Autologous reconstruction after radiotherapy; (2) Definite implant reconstruction after radiotherapy; (3) Autologous reconstruction before radiotherapy; (4) Definite implant reconstruction before radiotherapy. A second analysis was performed using only studies that directly compared group 1 versus 3 and 2 versus 4. RESULTS: A large variation in complication rates (8.7-70.0%) and in acceptable cosmetic outcome (41.4-93.3%) was reported. The first analysis showed more complications and a higher revision rate if an implant reconstruction was performed after radiotherapy; for autologous reconstruction fibrosis occurred more often if reconstruction was applied first. The second analysis showed no significant differences in total complication rate. Only implant failure occurred more often if applied after radiotherapy (odds ratio (OR) 3.03 [1.59-5.77]). No differences were found in both patient and physician satisfaction. CONCLUSIONS: A definite implant reconstruction placed before radiotherapy limits the rate of complications. For autologous reconstruction, less fibrosis is seen if reconstruction is performed after radiotherapy, but timing had no significant impact on total complication rate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2752-2762
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Breast cancer
  • Mastectomy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Autologous reconstruction
  • Implant reconstruction
  • Immediate reconstruction
  • Delayed reconstruction
  • Complications
  • Cosmetic outcome

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