Local recurrence after lumpectomy and radiation therapy indicates failed breast conservation surgery. These patients often proceed to mastectomy and are candidates for autogenous breast reconstruction. Free transverse rectus abdominis muscle (TRAM) reconstruction in these patients is complicated by repeated axillary dissection and the use of irradiated tissue. Complication rates for pedicled TRAMs have been reported at 33 percent when used in irradiated tissue beds. We report our results using the free TRAM for breast reconstruction after lumpectomy and radiation failure. All patients within this study developed a local recurrence after lumpectomy and radiation therapy. All patients had undergone axillary dissection for staging at the time of their lumpectomy. Patient records were reviewed for patient age, total radiation dose, associated risk factors for TRAM failure, operative time, donor vessels used for anastomosis, status of the native thoracodorsal vessels at the time of surgery, and postoperative complications. Over a 7-year period, 16 TRAM patients had undergone previous breast conservation surgery. Of these 16 patients, 14 underwent reconstruction with a planned free TRAM after simple mastectomy. Average operating room time was 7 hours. There were no partial or total flap losses. Complications were seen in 14 percent of the overall group. Overall, we found that the free TRAM provided an excellent aesthetic result with a lower complication rate than previously reported for pedicled TRAM flaps in irradiated beds. The thoracodorsal vessels provided an adequate donor vessel in 93 percent of the cases. The free TRAM provides a superior alternative in immediate reconstruction in patients who have failed breast conservative surgery.
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