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How Long After a Mastectomy Can I Have DIEP Flap Surgery

Getting DIEP flap surgery after a mastectomy is a process that requires careful planning and consideration. The DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap procedure involves using the patient's own skin, fat, and blood vessels from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast mound. This surgery is typically performed several months after the mastectomy, allowing for adequate healing and recovery from the initial cancer treatment. The exact timing may vary depending on factors such as the individual's overall health, cancer treatment plan, and the surgeon's recommendation. It is crucial to have open discussions with the reconstructive surgeon to understand the specific timeline that suits your unique situation and ensure a safe and successful outcome.

Recovering from DIEP Flap Post-Mastectomy 

The recovery process for DIEP flap reconstruction after a mastectomy can be quite involved and typically takes several weeks to months. In the initial weeks following the surgery, patients can expect some pain, swelling, and discomfort in both the breast and abdominal areas. Pain medication will be prescribed to manage this. Drains will be in place temporarily to remove excess fluid buildup. During this time, it is important to get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous activities to allow the body to heal properly.

As the recovery progresses, the swelling and bruising will gradually subside. Patients may need to wear a supportive bra or compression garment to aid in the healing process. Regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon will be scheduled to monitor the healing progress and address any concerns. Light activities can typically be resumed within a few weeks, but more strenuous exercise or heavy lifting may need to be avoided for up to 8 weeks or longer, as advised by the surgeon. It is crucial to follow the surgeon's instructions carefully to ensure optimal healing and minimize the risk of complications.

Pros & Cons of DIEP Flap

The DIEP Flap technique can create a natural-looking and feeling breast mound without the need for implants. Additionally, the procedure often results in a tightened abdominal area, providing a "tummy tuck" effect. However, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks, such as a longer surgery and recovery time, the risk of abdominal complications, and possibility of additional scarring. Ultimately, weighing the pros and cons of the DIEP flap against alternative reconstruction methods is crucial in determining the most suitable approach for each individual's needs and preferences.

Pros of DIEP Flap Surgery Post-Mastectomy 

The DIEP flap procedure can provide a more natural and potentially long-lasting breast reconstruction option for many mastectomy patients. Here are some of the key pros of getting DIEP flap surgery after a mastectomy:

  • Natural look and feel: The DIEP flap uses the patient's own tissue (skin, fat, and blood vessels) from the abdomen to reconstruct the breast. This results in a more natural look and feel compared to implant-based reconstruction.
  • No implant needed: Since the patient's own tissue is used, there is no need for implants, which can rupture or require replacement over time.
  • Long-lasting results: The DIEP flap reconstruction tends to have long-lasting results as it integrates with the body's own tissue, maintaining a more natural shape over time.
  • Sensation preservation: In some cases, the surgeon may be able to reconnect certain nerves, potentially allowing for some sensation to be preserved in the reconstructed breast.
  • Abdominal contouring: Since tissue is taken from the abdomen, the procedure can also result in a "tummy tuck" effect, improving the appearance of the abdominal area.
  • Reduced risk of certain complications: Without implants, there is a reduced risk of certain complications associated with implant-based reconstruction, such as capsular contracture or implant rupture.

Cons of DIEP Flap Surgery Post-Mastectomy 

While the DIEP flap can provide a natural reconstruction option, it is important to carefully weigh the potential cons and discuss them with your breast surgeon to determine if it is the right choice for your individual situation. Here are some potential cons of DIEP flap surgery after a mastectomy:

  • Longer surgery and recovery time: The DIEP flap procedure is a more extensive surgery compared to implant-based reconstruction. It typically takes longer to perform and requires a longer recovery period.
  • Risk of abdominal complications: Since tissue is taken from the abdomen, there is a risk of complications such as abdominal weakness, bulging at the donor site, or a hernia after DIEP flap surgery.
  • Potential for additional scarring: In addition to the mastectomy scar, the DIEP flap procedure creates additional scars on the abdomen where the tissue is harvested.
  • Potential for fat necrosis: In some cases, portions of the transferred fat tissue may not receive adequate blood supply, leading to fat necrosis (death of fatty tissue).
  • Potential for flap failure: Although rare, there is a risk of complete or partial flap failure, which may require additional surgery or an alternative reconstruction method.
  • Not suitable for all patients: Patients with certain medical conditions, such as obesity, smoking, or blood vessel diseases, may not be suitable candidates for the DIEP flap procedure.
  • Potential need for revision surgeries: Some patients may require additional surgeries to refine the shape or address any breast asymmetries or complications.

How Long Does Mastectomy and Immediate Breast Reconstruction Surgery Take?

The duration of a mastectomy combined with immediate breast reconstruction surgery can vary depending on several factors, but it is typically a lengthy procedure lasting several hours. The specific duration depends on the type of mastectomy, whether it is a single or bilateral (both breasts) procedure, the reconstruction method chosen (implant or flap), the complexity of the case, and the surgeon's experience and technique. In general, a mastectomy with immediate implant-based reconstruction can take around 3-5 hours, while a mastectomy with immediate flap reconstruction can take anywhere from 5-10 hours or longer.


  • Simple/Total Mastectomy: Typically takes 1-3 hours
  • Skin-Sparing Mastectomy: Can take 2-4 hours
  • Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy: Can take 3-5 hours

Breast Reconstruction:

  • Implant-based reconstruction: An additional 1-2 hours
  • Flap reconstruction (e.g., DIEP, TRAM, Latissimus Dorsi): An additional 3-8 hours

It is important to note these are approximate time frames, and the actual duration may vary. Your surgeon will be able to provide a more accurate estimation based on your specific situation and the planned procedures.

Choosing the Type of Breast Reconstruction that’s Right For You

Are you facing the difficult decision of breast reconstruction after mastectomy? Do not navigate this journey alone. The experts at The Institute are here to guide you every step of the way. Whether it is implant-based or advanced flap techniques like DIEP, we offer a personalized approach and the highest standards of care. 

Take the first step toward restoring your confidence and embracing your new look by scheduling a consultation today. Your path to healing begins with a conversation – call us now to explore your possibilities.