Reconstructive Plastic Surgery

Breast Reconstruction Flaps


At RPS Australia, flap reconstruction is one of our specialties.  Using your own tissue provides a permanent reconstruction with few long term complications. There are many different types of flap procedures. Which is most suitable for you will depend on your age, health, breast size, available tissue and the shape of your other breast. DIEP flap breast reconstruction is one of our preferred techniques because it provides new tissue for the breast while providing a simultaneous tummy tuck.


What is a Breast Reconstruction Flap?

There are two types of breast reconstruction, one using implants and the other using flap reconstruction. Which procedure is most suitable for you depends on your age, health, size and shape of your breast and body tissue available.

With implant reconstruction an implant is placed under the skin. With a breast reconstruction flap a section of fat, skin or muscle that is removed from the abdominal area, back or other area of the body is used to create a newly formed breast.

Tissue from your belly, buttocks and upper thighs is similar to breast tissue, making your breast feel very natural. Similar to implant reconstruction, after using a breast reconstruction flap you often lose sensation in your new breast.

The type of flap will depend on the individual and will be decided after a consultation with your surgeon.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

When your  surgery is complete you may have dressings over your breasts. These will be changed regularly by our nursing staff. Your new breast may appear larger than your existing breast, however over time it will decrease in size.

Depending on your circumstances, your surgeon will advise if you should wear a bra immediately after surgery or not.

You may feel tired and sore for the first two weeks after surgery. We recommend no heavy lifting and to avoid strenuous exercise, sports, and swimming. To help you recover, your surgeon may prescribe pain relief injections. They may also insert a plastic tube into your breast to drain any excess fluid.

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Notify the RPS Australia team immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • fever/high temperature – 38°C or higher
  • shortness of breath
  • breast leakage after day one of recovery – blood or fluid
  • increasing pain in either breast
  • increasing redness around incision site
  • heavy bleeding from incision site.
More information

What else you should know

What are free and pedicled reconstructive tissue flaps?

The reconstructive tissue flaps procedure can be carried out in two ways, free flap and pedicled flap.

When free flap tissue is moved to your chest it is completely separated from original blood vessels. These vessels are then joined together in the breast area using microsurgery. If the tissue remains attached to its blood vessels, it’s referred to as a pedicled flap.

Pedicled flaps have been used for longer and the surgery is easier to carry out. When using free flaps your plastic surgeon needs microsurgery skills to attach the blood vessels to the flap and chest area to ensure the new breast has adequate blood flow.

Can I have flap reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy?

Yes, you can have flap reconstruction at the same time as you have a mastectomy. You can also have it after, or you may decide to do it in stages, some of the procedure during your mastectomy and some after.

What are the types of tissue sources available for flap reconstruction?

Flap reconstruction can be carried out using tissue from your abdomen, back, thighs, hips or buttocks. Sources of tissue include:

  • Tissue from your abdomen (DIEP, SIEA, TRAM). Often women are pleased to use tissue from their abdomen as it’s like having a tummy tuck.
  • Tissue from your back (Latissimus Dorsi).
    If your plastic surgeon uses this option you will also need an implant.
  • Tissue from your hip/buttocks (IGAP, SGAP, Hip).
  • Tissue from your thighs (PAP, TUG).
  • Multi-component/hybrid flap using tissue from your abdomen/hips (Body Lift Perforator, Stacked DIEP, Stacked/Hybrid GAP).
  • Autologous using fat tissue from your abdomen, buttocks, and/or thighs by liposuction (Fat Grafting).
What factors determine which donor site the tissue comes from?

Where the tissue is sourced from depends on:

Body type

Where the tissue is sourced from will depend on where you have enough extra tissue. For women who are thin it can be difficult to source tissue from TRAM, DIEP or SIEA flaps. Instead, your surgeon may recommend GAP, TUG, PAP or latissimus dorsi flap (always used with an implant).

For women who are thin, instead of implants, our specialist surgeons can use multiple small flaps for one or both breasts.

Breast size

More tissue will be needed if your breasts are large and the stacked or hybrid flaps or an implant may be used to provide more volume.


The TRAM flap sourced from your belly (tissue and abdominal muscle) may not be available if you plan on falling pregnant after your breast reconstruction. This is due to stretching during pregnancy which can put pressure on the abdominal wall and the incision used to remove the tissue.

A better option if you are falling pregnant is to source tissue from the DIEP or SIEA flaps, or from other sites such as the thighs or buttocks.

Plastic surgeon’s expertise

Not all plastic surgeons have the experience that is required for flap reconstruction.

The surgeons at RPS Australia are multi award-winning reconstructive plastic surgeons, who have been trained to design and manage the restoration of form and function to the affected part of the body.

What are the physical effects I might experience after flap reconstruction?

Everyone experiences different symptoms after flap reconstruction, but some common effects are:

  • You will have multiple sites that are healing, including your breast and the donor site/s. You may also have additional incisions if you have a sentinel node biopsy or axillary node dissection at the same time as the reconstruction.
  • You may need additional surgery called ‘finishing work’. This could include reshaping the flap, reconstructing a nipple, repositioning an implant or removing surplus fat from the donor site.
  • The flap isn’t static, so it will change and get bigger or smaller as you lose or gain weight.
  • Unlike implants, flaps can be subjected to radiation therapy, but you will need to notify your plastic surgeon.
  • Once tissue is used once for flap reconstruction it can’t be used again, so if you require additional flap reconstruction it will need to come from a new source.
Will I have scarring?

Scars are an inevitable part of any invasive surgery. Your specialist plastic surgeon will endeavour to minimise scarring and keep your scars as inconspicuous as possible by locating the incisions in easily hidden sites. Scars will be placed along natural skin lines and creases. Scars may fade with time and become barely noticeable. If you are prone to scarring, you should advise your surgeon.

Will I need additional surgery?

This depends on the procedure, but reconstruction usually requires more than one surgery for the best result. Revisional surgery may be needed to correct any irregularities.


Dr. Michael Findlay

Our Melbourne specialist

The team at RPS Melbourne are committed to providing you with the best possible outcome.

The extensive specialist skills of our surgical team ensure that you are provided with surgical options designed to maximise form and function.

Dr Michael Findlay holds an impressive array of academic credentials, extensive professional experience and a personal commitment to patient satisfaction.