Lone Tree Plastic Surgeons Offer Advanced Breast Reconstruction Procedure | by
When Jeremy Williams’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, the Lone Tree plastic surgeon recommended a relatively unheard-of breast reconstruction procedure called the deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap. “Instead of implants, we use the patient’s own abdominal fat and tissue to shape new breasts,” he explains.
Although Dr. Williams had the training and knowledge to perform the procedure, he wasn’t at a point in his private practice at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery in Lone Tree to offer the surgery. He sent his mother east to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where he had completed seven years of training in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
“I realized there had to be lots of breast cancer survivors in Colorado who were settling for implants because they didn’t know about the DIEP flap option and they didn’t have access to a DIEP flap specialist,” says Dr. Williams. “I also saw a lot of women at my practice who had problems with their implants or were unhappy with the implants’ look and feel. These women mistakenly thought they had to live with the implants because there wasn’t an alternative.”
To help these women, Dr. Williams recruited a colleague who had trained with him at Johns Hopkins: Dr. Christopher Williams. While the two men aren’t related, they’ve spent so much time working together over the past 20 years that they are bonded like brothers. In 2009, they began performing DIEP flap procedures at Sky Ridge Medical Center operating in tandem to maximize patient benefits and minimize surgical time. At work, they are known as Dr. Chris and Dr. Jeremy.
“Part of our synergy and success stems from the fact that we received the same training at the same hospital from the same experts, we approach each operation identically and methodically. This synergy greatly benefits our patients.”
What Is DIEP?
The precursor to the DIEP flap is the TRAM flap. The procedure is named for the abdominal transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap where doctors cut and remove a large portion of the rectus abdominis muscle (along with fat, tissue and blood vessels) to create breasts. “With a portion of the stomach muscle gone, some women develop problems like hernias, abdominal bulges or chronic abdominal pain,” says Dr. Chris.
The DIEP improves on the TRAM by moving only a flap of fat, skin, tissue and blood vessels from the stomach — there is no removing of muscle. “Women recover from DIEP faster, with less pain, and few, if any, complications,” says Dr. Chris. The word DIEP refers to an artery that runs through the abdomen. During a DIEP flap procedure, Dr. Chris and Dr. Jeremy use complex microsurgical techniques to remove the abdominal flap and reattach its blood vessels to blood vessels in the chest. Once reconnected to the chest, the flap functions just as it did while part of the abdomen with a healthy blood flow.
The doctors recommend the DIEP flap procedure for women seeking first-time breast reconstruction, as well as breast cancer survivors who are unhappy with their implants. DIEP flaps also work particularly well for women who have received radiation therapy. “This cancer treatment is very damaging to skin,” says Dr. Jeremy. “One study found an almost 50% risk of implant complications, infections and other long-term complications when women get implants after radiation therapy. These risks diminish significantly when using a patient’s own tissue in a DIEP flap procedure.”
About Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery
Dr. Chris and Dr. Jeremy are among an elite group of plastic surgeons in the nation who have the expertise to perform the DIEP flap. The procedure requires advanced microsurgical training, which is why there are only about 100 plastic surgeons in the country who have the experience and credentials to offer DIEP. “To my knowledge, we are the state’s most experienced DIEP flap specialists and the first to offer the procedure in Colorado,” says Dr. Jeremy. The duo performs approximately 100 DIEP procedures every year; nearly 80% of their practice focuses on breast care.
By working together in the operating room, the two surgeons have greatly reduced the length of time a woman is in the operating room. Typically, a DIEP flap procedure on both breasts can take up to 12 hours. Working collaboratively, Dr. Chris and Dr. Jeremy complete most surgeries in under seven hours. Nearly all of their patients go home within two days after surgery compared to the national average of a four-day hospital stay. “Part of our synergy and success stems from the fact that we received the same training at the same hospital from the same experts,” says Dr. Jeremy. “We approach each operation identically and methodically. This synergy greatly benefits our patients.”
The benefits are substantial. Nationally, the failure rate for the DIEP flap procedure is low at only about 5%. For the patients of Dr. Chris and Dr. Jeremy, the risk of surgical failure is even lower. “Ninety-nine percent of the women who come to us for the DIEP flap procedure go home extremely happy and never experience any problems,” says Dr. Chris. And unlike implants which have to be replaced every 10 to 20 years, DIEP flaps last a lifetime.
“The DIEP flap is truly the gold standard of breast reconstruction. It offers a softer, warmer, more natural look and feel,” says Dr. Jeremy. “That’s why I recommended the procedure for my mother, and I continue to recommend it for all women recovering from breast cancer.”
Tags: breast cancer survival
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