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Preparing for DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

| September 19, 2023 December 21, 2023 | |



Improving Surgical Outcomes: Preparing for DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

DIEP flap surgery is one of the most preferred types of breast reconstruction. It uses skin, fat, and blood vessels from your abdomen to rebuild your breast after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. The recovery time for DIEP flap surgery is shorter than other breast reconstruction procedures and the results look more natural because the breast shape is formed using your body’s tissue.

Preparing physically and mentally for DIEP flap surgery is crucial for achieving an optimal outcome. Read on to learn how to build a resilient body and gain emotional readiness before surgery so you can come out of it feeling confident in both your body and your decision to undergo breast reconstruction.

Preparing for Surgery: Steps and Considerations

Preparing for DIEP flap surgery requires careful consideration and planning to ensure the best possible outcome. Your care team will give you specific instructions about how to prepare for DIEP flap surgery, but here are some general considerations:

  • Consult with a plastic surgeon
    Establishing open communication with your medical professionals is the first step in preparing for DIEP flap surgery. Assess their medical approach and communication style by scheduling a consultation to ask questions and ensure the surgeon-patient relationship is a good fit.
  • Gather your medical history and previous treatments
    Your OH plastic surgeon will want to know about your medical history, including any previous surgeries, conditions, allergies, and medications you’re currently taking. Have this information ready so your surgical team can make informed decisions regarding your procedure and anesthesia.
  • Discuss expectations and desired outcomes
    Think about your individual desired outcome of breast reconstruction and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. Then, paint a picture of that outcome for your surgeon. Together, you can set realistic expectations and create a surgical plan that aligns with your personal goals.
  • Physically prepare
    Your diep flap surgeon will provide specific preoperative instructions tailored to your situation, which may include fasting instructions, guidelines for taking medications, and details about the day of surgery.
  • Exercise
    To improve your overall strength and cardiovascular health, practice moderate exercise regularly under the guidance of your care team. Being in optimal physical condition makes the DIEP surgery recovery process easier.
  • Manage weight and nutrition
    Maintaining a healthy weight and balanced nutrition can positively impact your surgical and recovery outcomes. Adequate nutrition supports the body’s healing processes and helps reduce the risk of DIEP flap surgery complications.
  • Smoking cessation
    Leading up to your DIEP flap breast reconstruction, avoid all products containing nicotine. Smoking can impede blood flow and hinder the body’s ability to heal, increasing the risk of complications and preventing you from returning to daily life quickly.

Understanding Potential Risks and Complications

Speak with your surgical care team about risk factors that are specific to your condition and how to prevent them. DIEP flap surgery complications are rare but may include developing a hernia, lumps from scar tissue in the reconstructed breast, and necrosis.

Weight gain after DIEP flap reconstruction is uncommon. If you do gain weight, your breasts will grow proportionately with your body. Some patients may notice their midsection is tighter and more toned after their recovery, while others may not experience a significant change.

Psychological Preparation: Coping and Support

Preparing emotionally for surgery is equally important as preparing your body. During the lead-up to your DIEP flap surgery, lean on your support systems. Going through breast reconstruction is a big change, and you shouldn’t face the uncertainty and stress alone. Share your feelings, fears, concerns, hopes, and grief with loved ones and your surgeon. A supportive therapist may also play a pivotal role in helping you manage stress, find healthy coping mechanisms, and approach the procedure with a positive mindset.

Preparing for the Hospital Stay

Prior to your hospital stay, you may be wondering how to prepare, what to pack, and what to wear after DIEP flap surgery. We recommend taking a shower before leaving for your procedure and avoid applying lotion, makeup, jewelry, or contact lenses, as they will need to be removed in the operating room. Pack comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, flat shoes, and plenty of socks and underwear to wear after your surgery. Button-up tops or zip-up hoodies are easier for post-operative patients to slip into than clothing that must go over the head and arms. Your chest will have dressings and monitors, so you won’t need a bra.

To prepare for surgery, you’ll also need to follow the instructions provided by your care team closely. They will likely require that you abstain from Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, Vitamin E, alcohol, and nicotine products for some time before and after surgery to promote recovery. You may also be required to fast before your surgery.

Finally, arrange for someone to drive you to and from your procedure and assist you in the immediate days following your surgery. Having a trusted caregiver allows your body and mind more opportunities to rest and recover.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Aftercare

surgeon-assuring-female-patientDIEP flap surgery typically lasts 6-8 hours and requires a hospital stay of 3-5 days. Patients are initially catheterized, only allowed to have clear liquids, and on bed rest. Once you are cleared to be transferred to a regular hospital room, you may have visitors if you feel up for it. Most are cleared to return to a regular diet and get out of bed on the day following surgery.

Following the surgery, dressings, monitors, and JP drains will be applied to your midsection and breasts. Your surgeon and care team will provide specific instructions for how to care for your incisions and drains at home, make sure you understand your medication schedule, and offer techniques for managing pain. A compression garment is often required to aid in recovery and should be worn until the swelling and bruising have subsided.

Follow-up appointments after DIEP flap surgery provide an opportunity for you to discuss any concerns and receive individualized guidance for post-operative care, including scar management, physical therapy, and progressing back to daily activities. It’s also crucial that your care team can closely monitor the healing process, assess the blood supply to the reconstructed breast, and detect any abnormalities early on.

Lifestyle Adjustments Post DIEP Flap for Long-Term Results

In the immediate weeks after your surgery, you should form healthy, healing habits, including these DIEP flap recovery tips:

  • Walk regularly but avoid heavy exercise
  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 15 pounds
  • Practice no-weight arm exercises to prevent muscle atrophy and stiffness
  • Eat a nutritious, high-protein diet and drink plenty of fluids
  • Driving is prohibited while you require narcotic pain meds and have limited mobility

The post-DIEP flap surgery healing process is a different journey for each individual. Most patients are cleared to return to work, driving, and light exercise within 4-6 weeks. During this time, be patient with the limitations of your body and what it’s been through. Although DIEP surgery recovery can be challenging, your perseverance will reward you when you can return to daily life with increased confidence and health.

Start Your Journey To Breast Reconstruction in Ohio

When preparing for DIEP flap surgery, you can rely on our team of expert plastic surgeons at Midwest Breast & Aesthetic Surgery to guide you, ease your concerns, and get your reconstruction journey started. No matter your reason for seeking reconstructive surgery, we’re proud to offer you the one-on-one attention you’ll need every step of the way.


*Our blog entries are written in order to further educate our patients and raise awareness towards topics related to plastic surgery. Any solutions offered on this blog are intended to help possible patients develop educated decisions before undergoing a consultation with our doctors.

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