I Have a Hernia Due to DIEP Surgery. Is Alloderm Safe for Hernia Repair?

Doctor Answers 11

Alloderm for hernia after DIEP

Soemtimes patients develop a bulge or weakness and not a true hernia over the lower abdomen when a DIEP is performed or a TRAM flap.  Alldoerm is usually not strong enough for repairing this bulge. 

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Dermal matrix for the abdomen after DIEP flap

Thank you for the question!  I'm sorry to hear of this unfortunate event following your DIEP flap.  Acellular dermal matrices (e.g., AlloMax, AlloDerm, FlexHD, etc.) are collagen sheets derived from human cadaveric donors, which have been treated to remove antigenic cells and such.  While they have revolutionized breast reconstruction in particular, they have been used to treated hernias and bulges for the abdominal wall.  

It is quite uncommon to develop a true hernia following a DIEP flap, since the muscle should be kept intact and abdominal wall integrity changed very little if any.  Bulges are more common, but much less than a muscle-sparing TRAM or the conventional TRAM flap, where the a portion or the entire muscle is harvested for the reconstruction of a breast.  Regardless, these dermal matrices act as a scaffolding for tissue ingrowth and may be used for abdominal wall repair.  The downside of these are the predictable stretch that occurs once placed.  Although desirable for breast reconstruction in order to obtain better shape, it is not as ideal for the abdominal wall repair, as you ideally do not want any stretching following repair, but certainly could be used.  

Your surgeon may consider a porcine dermal matrix which has much less stretch than the human type.   If you are experiencing some bulging of the abdomen along with some discomfort, repair should be entertained and repair via tightening of the fascia alone or with the use of either human or porcine dermal matrix, or even a mesh, could be done.  I hope that this helps!  Best of luck with this!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Breast reconstruction, nipple reconstruction, breast cancer, DCIS, mastectomy, TUG flap, DIEP flap, Latissimus flap, fat graft i

Alloderm is a safe product for hernia repair but is not ideal.  There are several materials that can be used to perform repair of bulges which are typically what develops after surgery and a weakening in the fascia where the incision was made to follow the perforator and ultimately the blood vessels that would be hooked up to your chest later.  I have seen these most common in bilateral DIEP flap cases but they can occur in unilateral cases.  Each surgeon will manage differently but simply praline mesh repair is appropriate in these cases.

Hernia/Bulge after Flap reconstruction

Do you truly have a hernia or is it a bulge in your tummy area?   I concur with my colleagues.  AlloDerm does tend to stretch and its likely not the best option to correct a bulge or hernia.   Rather a more firm product like Strattice (porcine product) would be more helpful to improve your tummy area

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 209 reviews

Alloderm for Hernia Repair after DIEP flap

AlloDerm is made from human skin. It stretched approximately 30%, which makes it ideal for reconstruction with expanders. Unfortunately, this stretching is a drawback for hernia repair.

Strattice is made from pig skin that is treated so it is not rejected by the body. It doesn't stretch, so it is superior for hernia repair.

The first step is to have a true diagnosis of your bulge. It may just be from weakening of your abdominal wall caused by removing some of the nerve supply, or it may be from actual separation of the layers of your abdominal wall. You will want to be treated by someone who has experience in this area. Examination and CT scan are both helpful in diagnosing the actual anatomic problem, and thereby designing a treatment plan.

Karen Vaniver, MD
Kennewick Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Is Alloderm safe for hernia repair?

Alloderm is safe in repairing abdominal hernias, however, it is usually not the material of choice for most plastic surgeons today.  This is because the properties of Alloderm that make it great for the breast (stretching and incorporation) make it a lesser choice for fixing hernias that really need to be tight and not stretch.  There are many other products on the market now that would be better for your repair.

Erez Sternberg, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Alloderm after DIEP

Alloderm is made for cadaver human skin. One important characterstic is that Alloderm stretches significantly with time. If Alloderm must be used we tend to use thicker pieces, or we just used a synthetic mesh.

Fadi Nukta, MD
Ashburn Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Strattice may be preferable to Alloderm for hernia repair

Both products are acellular dermis, meaning that they come from skin with the cells removed leaving the collagen matrix. This acts as a template for your own tissue to grow in. Alloderm works very well in the breast to support implants, but Strattice is stronger and less flexible so a good choice for hernias.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

Alloderm for hernia?

Alloderm has historically been used for hernia repair, but bulging following this repair is not infrequent.  Thus, stronger materials are now more commonly chosen for hernia repair including various synthetic meshes.  Alloderm is cadaveric dermis that is depleted of human cells and antigens, so it is not rejected by an immune response from the recipient.  it serves as a scaffold that is incorporated with recipient cells, but it has limited strength.  The abdominal wall is subject to continuous torsion and strain, and alloderm is inconsistent in its ability to withstand this force.  Thus synthetic meshes are often a better choice for hernia repair. 

Jason Hess, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews



I'm sorry to hear you developed a hernia following your DIEP flap. Alloderm is an option for repair but typically we see this stretch too much and you will have weakness in the repair. Instead, Strattice is a material made also by LifeCell and is commonly used to repair abdominal wall laxity or hernias. The material is made from porcine dermis and is thus much stronger and less likely to stretch but is still a biologic that is unlikely to get infected. Good luck! 

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