Using Mesh to Reinforce the Abdominal Wall in Abdominal Free Flaps for Breast Reconstruction: Is There a Benefit? What are the Risks? Annals of plastic surgery Leon, D. S., Nazerali, R., Lee, G. K. 2018; 80 (5S Suppl 5): S295–S298


INTRODUCTION: Abdominal wall integrity may be compromised after abdominal flap harvest for breast reconstruction, leading to bulging or herniation due to weakening of the abdominal wall and dissection through the rectus muscle. Mesh can be used to reinforce the abdominal wall to reduce the risk of hernia formation postoperatively, especially in patients who may be at high risk. In this study, we describe this institution's experience with the use of mesh in the abdominal wall and critically evaluate its impact on patient outcomes and complications.METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed all patients with an abdominal free flap harvested for breast reconstruction at Stanford Health Care from 2005 to 2015. Multivariate-adjusted logistic regression analysis was used to compare the odds of abdominal complications-infection, bulging, and herniation-between patients with and without an abdominal mesh implanted during breast reconstruction.RESULTS: Three hundred eighty patients met inclusion criteria. One hundred sixty-one patients received mesh, whereas 219 received no reinforcement. In the mesh group, there were 7 (4.3%) cases of postoperative abdominal bulging, 11 (6.8%) cases of abdominal infection, and no (0.0%) cases of herniation. In the group without mesh, there were 17 (7.8%) cases of abdominal bulging, 11 (5.0%) cases of abdominal infection, and 5 (2.3%) cases of herniation. There was a significant difference in the odds of bulging (odds ratio [OR], 0.30; P = 0.01). There was not a significant difference in the odds of herniation (OR, 2.26E-10; P = 0.99) or infection (OR, 1.21; P = 0.69).CONCLUSIONS: In our current treatment algorithm, patients who received mesh were selected based upon several criteria, including obesity, weak fascia identified during surgery, and extensive muscle dissection. We confirm that the risk of bulging and herniation is decreased in patients receiving mesh. Furthermore, the risk of wound infection was not associated with the use of mesh; instead, a patient's elevated body mass index, as well as tension of closure, and other comorbidities are more likely causes of superficial wound complications. We find the use of mesh to be safe and beneficial in select patients undergoing abdominal free flap breast reconstruction who are at risk for hernias and bulges.

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