Breast Reconstruction & Hernias

One of the most common breast reconstructive surgeries performed to rebuild the breast after cancer-removal surgeries can put you at risk of developing a bulge or hernia. That’s because abdominal tissue is used to repair the area.

Breast Reconstructive Surgery Basics

This procedure is called an autologous tissue reconstruction, or an abdominal tissue flap procedure. This surgery uses the patient’s own fatty tissue, skin, and occasionally muscle, combined with the same blood supply from the patient’s abdomen, and transfers it to the chest, essentially creating a new breast. The flaps from the abdomen come from one of 3 places in the stomach: a DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator), an SIEA (superficial inferior epigastric artery), or a TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap.

TRAM flaps are the most commonly used in these procedures because they are at lower risk for nerve damage. Unfortunately, these flaps put patients at higher risk to develop bulges or hernias. TRAM flaps take skin, fat, and part or all of the “six-pack” muscle (rectus abdominis) to reconstruct the breast. DIEP and SIEA flaps take only skin and fat, sparing the muscle underneath to preserve core strength. These two flaps also minimize the risk of hernias developing. The risk with DIEP or SIEA flaps is that the nerves that power the muscles can be damaged which weakens the abdominal wall. If this happens, the area is more prone to bulges or hernias.

What Happens When A Hernia Occurs?

Hernias are painful and can actually cause chronic problems. Hernias occur when part of an organ, like the small intestine, gets displaced and protrudes through the abdominal wall or cavity that contains the organ. If one does occur following a flap procedure, we can help. We specialize in the surgery that is required to repair the hernia and reconstruct the abdominal wall. To repair the damage, the affected organ or organs are repositioned back into the abdominal cavity, the herniated section is closed, and the area is reinforced to make it stronger.

These surgeries usually require a patient to spend at least one night in the hospital before returning home. Within 3-4 days most patients are able to work from home and are able to return to regular work within 2 weeks. Insurance will usually cover hernia repair and abdominal wall reconstruction after breast cancer.

​Schedule your appointment today and talk to an expert.