BACKGROUND: Aesthetic results following breast reconstruction have been shown to be a major contributor to patient satisfaction. While many presume that complications after reconstruction impact final aesthetic results, little data exist to substantiate this putative relationship. OBJECTIVE: To track and evaluate aesthetic outcomes following implant reconstructions with complications. METHODS: A chart review was conducted on a series of consecutive expander-implant breast reconstructions performed by the senior author between 2004 and 2012. Included patients completed their prosthetic reconstruction or converted to autologous methods and had a minimum follow-up period of 130 days. Four blinded members of the division of plastic surgery independently rated postoperative anterior photographs of patients' breasts using a validated scoring scale with respect to five distinct aesthetic domains: breast mound volume, contour, placement, scarring and inframammary fold. RESULTS: Of the 172 patients who met the inclusion criteria, 36 experienced a complication. The tissue expander in one-half of these patients was salvaged and the remaining patients converted to autologous reconstruction. The average aesthetic scores for each domain did not differ significantly between patients who experienced a complication and retained their expander and those who did not experience a complication. Patients who converted to autologous tissue reconstruction after experiencing a complication had the highest aesthetic scores. DISCUSSION: The ability to obtain aesthetic results following a complication that were not statistically different from results in those without complications may reflect the surgeon's refined attempt to salvage the initial implant reconstruction; in other circumstances, the improved cosmesis was achieved through conversion to an autologous tissue-based method. CONCLUSION: The present study quantitatively assessed the impact of complications on aesthetic outcomes following implant breast reconstruction. Continuance of prosthetic reconstruction and conversion to autologous reconstruction serve as viable options to obtain adequate aesthetic scores following a complication. Information gained from the present analysis will help manage patient expectations.
- Breast reconstruction
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