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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2003 Jul;112(1):101-5.

Resource cost comparison of implant-based breast reconstruction versus TRAM flap breast reconstruction.

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  • 1Division of Plastic Surgery, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Relatively little has been published to date comparing the resource costs of transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap and prosthetic breast reconstruction. The data that have been published reflect the experience at just one medical center with a previously known clear preference for autologous breast reconstruction. The goal of this study was to compare the resource costs of TRAM flap and prosthetic reconstruction in an institution where both procedures continue to be performed using modern techniques and at a relatively equivalent frequency. All available medical records were reviewed for patients who had completed their breast reconstruction between 1987 and 1997. Records of patients who had undergone TRAM flap or prosthetic reconstruction were reviewed to compare resource costs, including hospital stay, operating room time, anesthesia time, prosthetic devices, and physician's fees. Of 835 patients reviewed who had completed breast reconstruction, a total of 140 suitable patients were identified who had all the necessary financial information available. The patient population comprised 64 patients who received TRAM flaps and 76 patients who had undergone prosthetic reconstruction. The length of stay for the TRAM flap group, including all subsequent admissions for each patient, ranged from 2 to 24 days (mean, 6.25 days), and that for the prosthetic reconstruction group ranged from 0 to 20 days (mean, 4.36 days). Operating room time for the complete multistage reconstructive process for a TRAM flap ranged from 5 hours, 20 minutes to 12 hours, 25 minutes (mean, 7 hours, 34 minutes); with implant-based reconstruction, operating time ranged from 1 hour, 45 minutes to 8 hours, 56 minutes (mean, 4 hours, 6 minutes). With prostheses costing from $600 to $1200, a surgeon's fee of $160/hour, and an assistant's fee of $45/hour, the average cost of TRAM flap reconstructions was $19,607 (range, $11,948 to $49,402), compared with $15,497 for prosthetic reconstructions (range, $6422 to $40,015). The results were statistically significant (p < 0.001). Several factors weigh into the decision as to which reconstructive operation best suits the patient's needs. These factors include surgical risk, potential morbidity, and aesthetic results. On the basis of this review of autologous and prosthetic breast reconstruction in an institution where both are performed frequently, during a 10-year period with a mean time elapsed since reconstruction of 7.45 years, prosthetic reconstruction was significantly less expensive.

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