Exploring the effect of the referring general surgeon's attitudes on breast reconstruction utilization

D. Heath Stacey, Michelle A. Spring, Tara M. Breslin, Venkat K. Rao, Karol A. Gutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Breast reconstruction rates remain low, at 5%-15% of mastectomy patients, despite the safety and high patient satisfaction of these procedures. Reasons for this are multifactorial, including the attitudes and biases of the referring breast surgeon, as well as patient factors. The purpose of this study was to explore attitudes of general surgeons towards breast reconstruction. Methods: We surveyed 369 general surgeons in Wisconsin with questions about breast surgery. Responses from 135 (36%) surgeons were analyzed. Results: Seventy-three percent of the respondents performed at least some breast surgery and were eligible for the study. For a little over 50% of the general surgeons surveyed, breast surgery made up less than 10% of their practice. Fifty-one percent never performed a skin-sparing mastectomy. A large number of breast surgeons (40%) did not refer all mastectomy patients for reconstruction. Reasons cited for not referring patients included the concerns over cancer recurrence and advanced patient age. Reasons for patients not undergoing reconstruction included patient's refusal, need for radiation therapy, delaying adjuvant oncologic treatment, patient factors, and having no plastic surgeon available locally. Conclusions: The decision by a patient to undergo breast reconstruction involves many complex factors. As a specialty, we should focus on improving the availability of breast reconstructive surgeons and educating referring surgeons and patients about reconstructive indications and options in order to positively affect the utilization of breast reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-297
Number of pages6
JournalWisconsin Medical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 26 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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