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J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2012 Apr;65(4):420-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2011.10.005. Epub 2011 Oct 22.

Should we continue to consider obesity a relative contraindication for autologous microsurgical breast reconstruction?

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Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center, 770 Welch Road, Suite 400, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.



Obesity is not only a causative factor for premature mortality, it has also been demonstrated to be associated with an increased postoperative complication rate. As such, it has traditionally been considered a relative contraindication to autologous breast reconstruction. The purpose of this study was to assess whether this recommendation is justified.


A retrospective study was conducted analyzing the effect of obesity on complication rate after microsurgical autologous breast reconstruction using abdominal tissue. Patients undergoing breast reconstruction between November 2006 and February 2011 were included. In contrast to prior studies, only patients meeting criteria to undergo bariatric surgery were included in the study, thus, representing a particularly high-risk subset of patients (Group 1: BMI greater 40 kg/m(2); Group 2: BMI greater 35 kg/m(2) with co-morbidities).


A total of 42 breast reconstructions were performed in 28 patients who met inclusion criteria. Surgical complications were seen in a total of 9 patients (p = 1.00). All complications were successfully managed conservatively and did not prolong hospitalization. No differences were seen among study groups with respect to donor-site (p = 0.57) and recipient-site complications (p = 1.00). Of note, no partial or total flap loss was seen in this study.


Obesity is associated with a relatively high risk of minor complications postoperatively. However, complications can typically be managed non-operatively and on an outpatient basis with fairly minimal patient morbidity. We believe that obesity should not be considered a relative contraindication to autologous microsurgical breast reconstruction. Patients should, however, be informed preoperatively about their higher risk of postoperative complications.

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