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imageBackground: A large proportion of patients presenting for autologous breast reconstruction have a history of prior abdominal surgeries such as obstetric, gynecologic, or general surgical procedures. The impact of prior abdominal wall violation on the ability to perform free tissue transfer from the abdomen needs to be explored and characterized. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of prior abdominal surgery on perfusion-related complications and donor-site morbidity in free tissue abdominal transfer.
Methods: All patients who underwent abdominally based free tissue transfer for breast reconstruction from 2005 to 2011 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania were included. In addition to collecting data on standard patient past medical histories, comorbidities, and case characteristics, we also noted specific types of prior abdominal surgeries, number of prior surgeries, and if the rectus sheath was violated. Outcomes assessed included thrombotic complications, flap loss, major surgical complications, minor surgical complications, delayed wound healing, and subsequent hernia formation.
Results: Eight hundred twelve patients underwent 1257 free flap breast reconstructions during the study period. Four hundred seventeen (51.4%) women had undergone prior abdominal surgery. The most common prior abdominal surgeries included total abdominal hysterectomy and/or bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (35.7%), cesarean delivery (33.8%), and appendectomy (12.7%). No significant differences were noted in the number of major intraoperative complications (P = 0.68), total thrombotic events (P = 0.339), or flap losses (P = 0.53). Patients who had undergone prior rectus sheath violation were found to experience a greater amount of delayed healing of the donor site (22.7% vs 16.5%, P = 0.03). Additionally, a higher rate of postoperative hernia formation was noted in patients who had undergone prior hernia repairs (13.6% vs 3.3%, P = 0.04).
Conclusions: A significant portion of patients presenting for breast reconstruction have had prior abdominal surgeries. This study demonstrates that these prior procedures represent an acceptable level of risk; although this issue should still be addressed during preoperative patient counseling. In patients with prior hernia repairs, however, additional care should be given to the fascial closure as these patients may be at higher risk for subsequent hernia formation after abdominally based breast reconstruction.

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