Semin Plast Surg 2002; 16(1): 019-026
DOI: 10.1055/s-2002-22676
Copyright © 2002 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel.: +1(212) 584-4662

Radiation Effects on Breast Reconstruction: A Review

Nicole E. Rogers1 , Robert J. Allen2
  • 1Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA
  • 2Section of Plastic Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA
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Publication History

Publication Date:
22 March 2002 (online)


Breast cancer patients must make important decisions regarding whether or not to undergo breast reconstruction as well as what kind of reconstruction is best for them. A number of options for reconstruction are available, including saline or silicone prostheses, autologous transverse rectus abdominis muscle (TRAM) flaps, and autologous, muscle-sparing deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flaps. Even more difficult, however, is the decision if and when adjuvant radiation should be administered. The timing of radiation therapy can significantly affect the breast's final cosmetic and structural outcome. This article summarizes existing studies on how outcome is affected, with the conclusion that no reconstructive techniques are impervious to the damaging effects of postoperative radiation. However, there are numerous psychologic and economic benefits associated with immediate reconstruction. Depriving patients of these benefits is unnecessary when the likelihood of cancer recurrence is low. Together, surgeons, oncologists, and patients must first decide whether radiation is appropriate. Then they must assess the proper timing for its administration to achieve an outcome that is not only free of disease but also cosmetically acceptable.