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Latissimus Flap Reconstruction

For some patients your surgeon may recommend the use of a tissue flap on top of the breast implant. This may be recommended based upon the patient’s anatomy in order to achieve a more natural appearing breast, or it may be to protect the implant in a patient who is going to undergo radiation therapy. A “flap” is typically a combination of muscle, fat, and skin tissues and can be taken from the patient’s abdomen, back, or other parts of the body. The most common type of combination flap and implant reconstruction is that of the Latissimus Flap.

The Latissimus Flap involves the surgeon taking tissue from the patient’s back (in an area over the scapula or “shoulder blade”). The tissue is rotated around to the breast area and used to cover the implant. This provides more coverage or protection for the implant than skin alone.

In some cases the Latissimus Flap may be done without an implant, but does not typically provide sufficient volume for most patients and therefore is most commonly done with an implant.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Implant Reconstruction With A Flap?

  • With a Latissimus Flap covering the implant, there may be fewer complications relating to radiation therapy
  • Because there is additional tissue provided by the flap, patients typically do not need to have an expander placed and can have the flap with implant done at one surgery rather than the two stages typically needed for implants alone.
  • Latissimus Flap reconstruction may require a somewhat longer and more difficult surgery at the first stage when compared with implants alone. This may mean a longer recuperation for most patients.
  • With a Latissimus Flap patients may experience some weakness initially in the use of the arm on the reconstructed side. However, the shoulder and arm have numerous muscles involved in motion and most patients quickly overcome this weakness with the use of the other muscles in the area.
  • Patients will have an additional scar at the site where the flap is obtained. For a Latissimus Flap, the scar is typically 6-8 inches long and runs below the scapula or “shoulder blade” on the reconstructed side(s).


Patient Stories

I was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer on my breast in 1999. It took three surgeries and a portion of my right breast in order to get clean margins and to be cancer free. One of those surgeries was severely botched and left me totally unable to even consider reconstruction at that time. I learned to live with a portion of my breast missing but always wondered if anything could be done to reconstruct it.

After 12 years of struggling with fear, I was finally ready to face my giant and start looking for a qualified, compassionate surgeon. I was willing to travel just about anywhere to find someone who was knowledgeable, kind, and the best at what they did. Dr. McKane was one of the names I kept coming back to, even though choosing him would mean a six hour drive. I finally decided to send an email to his staff for a consultation and within two weeks I was in Dallas for my first visit.

From the moment I met Dr. McKane and his staff, I felt at ease. He explained everything thoroughly and never made me feel rushed or uncomfortable in any way. He showed me before and after pictures of others who had the same procedure, gave me the pros and cons, and answered all my questions. When we left his office that day and talked, my husband and I knew we’d found a surgeon we could trust with my reconstruction.

After some thought and further discussion with Dr. McKane, I chose the Latissimus Dorsi flap without implants. We felt like it would give me the results I wanted by using only my own tissue and I liked that the recovery time of the Latissimus Dorsi flap was shorter, better fitting my busy life as a mother of four.

The surgery was scheduled within a month and went very well. It was so surreal and amazing to see myself for the first time after twelve years and actually feel normal and whole again. Being away from home and my kids was hard, but so worth the awesome care and results. After 9 days, my drains were removed and I made the trip back home. I had some pain and discomfort the first couple of weeks, but by the sixth week and my next check-up I was able to resume most of my normal activities.

Dr. McKane and his staff were so great through the entire process. He did an excellent job and is a great surgeon. From working with me on scheduling long distance appointments, to answering my questions and taking care of all the insurance details, I never had to worry about anything. I can’t tell Dr. McKane thank you enough for caring about me and giving me back part of what cancer took away!


Provide additional coverage for implants when radiation has been or will be used

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