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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012 Oct;94(7):493-5. doi: 10.1308/003588412X13171221592050.

Correlating the deep inferior epigastric artery branching pattern with type of abdominal free flap performed in a series of 145 breast reconstruction patients.

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Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East Grinstead, West Sussex, UK.



The deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap is currently viewed as the gold standard in autologous breast reconstruction. We studied three-dimensional computed tomography angiography (CTA) in 145 patients undergoing free abdominal flap breast reconstruction to try to correlate deep inferior epigastric artery (DIEA) branching pattern with the type of flap performed and patient outcome. Today, reconstructive breast surgeons have become more experienced in raising DIEP flaps and operative times are becoming more acceptable. However, there remains significant interest in finding ways to aid this challenging dissection.


We retrospectively evaluated consecutive patients between January 2007 and August 2008. CTAs were analysed using the Moon and Taylor (1988) classification of the DIEA branching pattern. Data gathered included pre-operative morbidity, type of abdominal wall free flap performed, length of operation, length of stay and complications.


Some 150 breast reconstructions were performed in 145 patients. There were 67 DIEP flaps, 69 MS-2 transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flaps and 14 MS-1 TRAM flaps (where MS-1 spares the lateral muscle and MS-2 spares both lateral and medial segments). Proportionally more DIEP flaps were performed in patients with a type 2 branching pattern. There was one flap loss (0.67%).


In this large CTA series, we found a type 1 (single artery) DIEA pattern most frequently, in contrast to the predominance of the type 2 bifurcating pattern observed previously. The higher proportion of DIEP flaps performed in the type 2 pattern patients is consistent with the documented shorter intramuscular course in this group. We have found CTA useful for faster selection of the best hemiabdomen for dissection and flap loss rates in our unit have reduced from 1.5% to 0.67%.

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