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Eplasty. 2013 Jun 20;13:e32. Print 2013.

Salvage of failed prosthetic breast reconstructions by autologous conversion with free tissue transfers.

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Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Addenbrooke's University Hospital.



Implant-based breast reconstructions are conceptually simple but prone to surgical revisions. Additional procedures often fail to address the problems associated with the reconstructive outcome, especially in patients who have received radiotherapy. However, conversion to free flaps may improve symptoms and aesthetic results. We reviewed our experience in the United Kingdom with autologous replacement of failed prosthetic reconstructions with the aims of documenting the indications for "tertiary" reconstructions and comparing our outcomes with those of other centers.


Patients undergoing salvage surgery for suboptimal prosthetic breast reconstructions between 2000 and 2012 were retrospectively reviewed for their original reconstructive operation, previous radiotherapy, indications for revision, corrective procedures undertaken, and final outcomes.


Of 14 patients identified, 7 had delayed and 7 had immediate reconstructions. Twelve had received radiotherapy; 6 before the initial delayed prosthetic reconstructions and 6 after immediate reconstructions. Ten patients presented after undergoing previous revisions of their original reconstructions (average 1.6). Indications for autologous conversion were capsular contracture, persistent pain, and poor cosmetic outcomes (often in combination). Salvage comprised explantation, total capsulectomy, and abdominal free flap reconstruction using deep inferior epigastric artery flaps (9) and transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flaps (5). The average interval between initial reconstruction and salvage was 8 years (r = 1-14). All flap transfers were successful with satisfactory aesthetic outcomes (average 21 months follow-up).


We recommend early salvage autologous conversion of implant-based reconstructions once initial prosthetic reconstructions become unsatisfactory, particularly in recipients of radiotherapy. Many of these patients may have been better served by initial autologous reconstruction; the challenge is to identify them prospectively.


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