SIEA Flap Breast Reconstruction

If you need breast reconstruction due to breast cancer or another medical issue, you have questions. At the top for most patients is, “What kind of surgery will give me a look that makes me feel like myself again?”

More patients are choosing SIEA flap breast reconstruction. The procedure offers some key advantages over other types of reconstruction surgery. But patients researching this technology should know that not every patient qualifies for SIEA flap reconstruction.

Today we discuss the benefits of SIEA flap breast reconstruction, whether you may be a candidate, and what outcome you can expect.

What Is SIEA Flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

SIEA refers to the superficial inferior epigastric artery. This surgery resects the area, ultimately keeping the artery intact. This delicate microsurgical procedure is an innovation in breast reconstruction.

A symmetrical, oval, or “eye”-shaped section of the patient’s abdominal tissue is surgically removed for the flap. The tissue, with its blood vessels still connected, is transferred to the area where the reconstructed breast will be. It is reattached using microsurgery.

Next, the tissue is carefully shaped to resemble the other breast or to look natural (if both breasts are being reconstructed).

Finally, both incisions are closed. The abdomen is sutured closed to look as naturally contoured as possible, similar to an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).

Why Patients Choose This Technique

There are some significant advantages to having SIEA flap breast reconstruction. They include:

  • Results usually look and feel very natural
  • It can be very well-matched to the other side for better symmetry
  • It tends to age as a natural breast would
  • Maintains the strength of the abdomen after skin removal
  • Contours the abdomen, similar to an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)

Are You a Candidate for an SIEA Flap Procedure?

Unfortunately, not every woman is an ideal candidate for SIEA flap reconstruction. Your plastic surgeon can help you decide whether the technique is right for you.

The ideal SIEA flap breast reconstruction candidate:

  • Has adequate abdominal tissue for removal
  • She desires reconstruction using her body tissue
  • May have received radiation treatment (living bodily tissue is best in this case)
  • Is in generally good health (this aids in recovery from the procedure)

What Is the Recovery From Surgery Like?

It will take about two weeks before you can perform certain tasks, and the entire process of recovery will take anywhere from six weeks to three months. This is similar to other types of breast surgery.

However, precautions will need to be taken due to the delicate and specific nature of the microsurgery aspect.

Here is what you can expect:

  • First day: On the day of surgery, you will be awakened from general anesthesia and asked to walk a few steps. While you will need to limit your activities, it is essential to move regularly to prevent blood clots from happening. You may awaken with surgical garments on; your surgeon will instruct you when to change them. You may also have drains in the area. You can not drive home after surgery, so have a ride ready. You may also be dizzy and possibly nauseous. Your doctor will send you home with medications or prescriptions to address pain or nausea.
  • First week: Your activities will be limited; for instance, you can’t work out yet and should not drive. You will be asked to stay home from work as well. You will have some bruising and swelling and may be very sore and stiff. Take any pain medications exactly as your doctor has directed. If you had drains placed after your surgery, your surgeon may remove them this week. If not, they will probably come out during the second week. For now, you will be asked not to lift children or any heavy objects.
  • First month: After about two weeks, if all is going well, you can drive and go to work again. You can not work out yet, but you will be asked to continue to be minimally active. Walks are good during this time. Your incisions will have fully closed, but you may still have some bruising and swelling. This is normal, but if you have a sudden increase in pain, if the area feels warm (or if you have a fever), or if your swelling increases, contact your plastic surgeon.
  • Six weeks to three months: For a few patients, swelling may continue minimally for up to three months. If you are still swollen, ask your plastic surgeon whether there is anything you should do. They may ask to see you to determine that your healing is still going well. It would help if you were driving again, and you will be able to go back to work. Now, you will probably be able to lift heavy objects again and work out as usual.

What Results Can You Expect?

Your results will depend upon the extent of the reconstruction, your own health, and other factors. However, most women who undergo SIEA flap breast reconstruction are very happy with their results. Ask your doctor for before and after pictures of other patients and ask what you can realistically expect.

By following the directions your doctor gives you and with a realistic outlook, you can be happy with your new, reconstructed breasts for years to come.