DIEP flap reconstruction involves moving the lower abdominal tissue to the chest to reconstruct either one or both breasts. The healing process for DIEP flaps, as any other surgery, can take up to one year to 18 months or more to completely soften up and heal. Typical strenuous activity and weightlifting restrictions are on the order of 6 weeks. For the first six weeks after surgery we encourage patients to eat a diet high in protein and to not put any additional creams or ointments on the skin for about six weeks. In the early post-operative period, if creams or lotions are placed on the skin it may be a bit more difficult to determine if someone is having a reaction to the cream or lotion or if there is an infection. At the six week mark, patients can use silicone sheets to flatten the scars. Silicone sheets are used for 12 hours a day for 12 weeks. It is important that all of the incisions are well healed prior to utilizing the silicone sheets.
When the breast is ptotic. The nipple areola complex may not be able to be kept alive during a mastectomy procedure. In some cases, a mastopexy can be performed first to lift the nipple areola complex into a higher position. After an interval time of approximately 3 months, the patient and oncologic surgeon can return to the operating room to perform a mastectomy. The nipple areola complex has a higher chance of maintaining viability provided it is not stressed with rapid inflation of the expander.