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Ann Plast Surg. 2004 Oct;53(4):311-6.

The internal mammary artery and vein as recipient vessels for microvascular breast reconstruction: are we burning a future bridge?

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Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Clinical applications for the internal mammary artery include use as an arterial conduit for coronary revascularization and as a recipient artery for microvascular reconstruction of the breast. This study was completed in an attempt to resolve the controversy over which indication should have priority. Five hundred twenty women with breast cancer who underwent breast reconstruction were reviewed. Of these, 240 were 50 years of age or more and were evaluated for cardiac disease. Three components were studied that included analysis of factors related to cardiac function (prior cardiac surgery, specific cardiac disorders, and cardiac medications), analysis of risk factors related to cardiac disease (hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and tobacco use), and analysis of factors related to the reconstruction (selection of recipient vessels, type of reconstruction). The women were stratified based on age-50 to 59 years, 60 to 69 years, and older than 70 years-to analyze trends based on advancing age. Results demonstrated that the incidence of coronary artery disease was 2 in 240 women (0.8%) and that the incidence of factors related to cardiac function and the incidence of risk factors related to cardiac disease appear to increase with advancing age. The internal mammary vessels were used in 35 of 114 free tissue transfers with no adverse sequelae. No woman in whom the internal mammary artery was used has developed coronary artery disease. The 2 women with coronary artery disease were reconstructed with implants. Based on the results of this study, the author thinks that use of the internal mammary artery as a recipient vessel for microvascular reconstruction of the breast is justified. Options for future coronary revascularization would include the opposite internal mammary artery when available, a saphenous vein graft, or angioplasty.

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