Better Symmetry? Lat Flap with Implant or Tissue Expander and Implant?

I am 35, having a unilateral mastectomy, no chemo, no radiation. I've received two different opinions from board certified plastic surgeons about reconstruction - one said tissue expander (delayed) will achieve symmetry and no Lat flap technique is necessary, the other indicated a Lat Flap with implant(immediate) will achieve symmetry best and the delayed tissue expander option will result in a flat breast. Is this true - how do I choose?

Doctor Answers 15

Breast reconstruction

Three basic forms of breast reconstruction exist. You can use your own tissue, implants or a combination of the previous two techniques. Your own tissue can be used in the form of the DIEP flap, PAP flap, SGAP flap or fat grafting. Implants can be done in one stage or two stage. Two stage reconstructions are started by placing expanders at the time of mastectomy. Once they expanders are placed they are able to be inflated as determined by wound healing. The final time consists of combining any of the above techniques.

If you are interested in being seen in Austin please give us a call. I know this is a difficult time for you. The majority of my practice is devoted to reconstruction for women with breast cancer or who are BRCA+

Lat and Implant vs tissue expander and implant?

Unless your skin is thin, there is not reason to sacrifice your back muscle. Consider an implant alone. Both will achieve symmetry equally and both are based on the quality of the intiial resection.

Raj S. Ambay, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Latissimus dorsi flap versus tissue expander.

There is no question that immediate reconstruction with a Lat flap and implant will give you the best symmetry and the most natural looking breast.  The trade off is that it is a bigger operation and a scar on your back.  A delayed tissue expander will never give you as natural a result but it is less invasive surgery with less down time.  No procedure is perfect.  You have to decide what issue is most important to you in order to make your decision.  Best of Luck.  

Mark A. Schusterman, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Options for breast reconstruction

Without more details it would be difficult to give you specific advice, but you might consider these principles in making this decision:

1. Delayed reconstruction is associated with a lower complication rate.

2. Placement of a tissue expander is a simpler operation, with no donor site involved.

3. The latissimus dorsi flap is a more complex operation, with a longer recovery,  but has the advantage of a potentially better result.

4. Delayed reconstruction will sacrifice some of the skin of the breast, which may result in central flattening of the reconstructed breast.

Glynn Bolitho, PhD, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Best Unilateral Breast Reconstruction for Symmetry

In your question you suggested a choice between skin expander and latissimus dorsi breast reconstruction for achieving symmetry after a unilateral breast reconstruction.

Accepting the limitation to these two choices, I generally would choose a latissimus flap, particularly if your breasts were not to large and the latissimus along could provide sufficient volume to match the non-mastectomy side.  My reason for this is that the latissimus dorsi flap provide a soft warm natural breast entirely of your own tissue. 

However, if your breast were large than the latissimus alone would not be sufficient, and an implant and latissimus would be needed , or your would need to reduce the non-mastectomy sided breast so that it would match the smaller volume of the latissimus alone.

There are, of course, more options than the one that you have mentioned, and they can often provide sufficient fat and skin tissue flaps to match larger breasts.   

A thorough evaluation and discussion of your options with a board certified plastic surgeon is needed.

See   for more information on these and other techniques.

Fredrick A. Valauri, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon

"Direct to implant reconstruction"

There is no reason in your situation to use a muscle !

You could have a direct to implant reconstruction and have a wonderful breast without expanders or the need to use your LD muscle !!

C. Andrew Salzberg, MD
Westchester Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Choice of reconstruction

If you are going with a tissue expander implant reconstruction, a latissimus flap to me is a life preserver for a secondary procedure if the primary reconstruction fails secondary to radiation. Since you are not having RT I would do the expander and implant.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Timing and choice of reconstruction

If you do not need chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you should consider immediate reconstruction.  Immediate reconstruction is done at the time of mastectomy and can give you the best cosmetic outcome.  In terms of LD flap/implant vs. tissue expander, if you are undergoing simple, skin sparing mastectomy, you should be okay with tissue expander placement as your first stage.  If you are needing more radical mastectomy where you need more skin coverage, then you may need LD flap/implant.  However, without examining you and talking with your breast surgeon, it is be difficult to answer.  It seems like you need to consult your plastic surgeons again; please ask for pros and cons of each option.  Good luck to you.

Sugene Kim, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

LD/Implant Reconstruction

It is hard to decide when you have received two diverging opinions. Both surgeons should have a good rationale for their recommendations. However, from the limited information provided, I don't see any reason that a delayed or secondary reconstruction would be necessary. In most cases, reasonably good symmetry can be achieved with either tissue expansion/implant reconstruction, or LD/Implant reconstruction. The LD will provide additional soft tissue in the form of muscle and skin and may allow for a greater degree of ptosis (droop) of the reconstructed breast, however, this is at the expense of a longer procedure and a donor site on the back.

Leo Keegan, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Breast reconstruction

Frequently this issue requires addressing the opposite "normal" breast as well. Depending on the size and shape, various options may be better suited. Your best symmetry will likely require a reduction or lift on the opposite side. IF you have a small breast on the normal side an expander may be a reasonable option with a skin sparing mastectomy. However, if you have a larger, ptotic breast, a latissimus flap may be a better option to achieve the look you seek.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.