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Latissimus Dorsi Flap Breast Reconstruction

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​In this Guide

If you've been scheduled for a breast reconstruction operation using Latissimus Dorsi Flap (with or without a tissue expander and/or an implant), you probably have some questions. Our guide offers the answers you're looking for, and helps you prepare for your operation.​


About the Operation​​​​​

This procedure uses the back muscle, called Latissimus Dorsi, to create the breast mound. It can reconstruct a breast on its own, or can be used in combination with a tissue expander and/or implant. The Latissimus Dorsi muscle is moved from the back to the chest to cover the tissue expander and/or implant.​

This procedure is commonly offered to patients that have had a previous mastectomy and radiation to their chest and/or are not candidates for a DIEP procedure​ due to being too thin and not having enough tissue in their stomach area or are unable to tolerate such a long procedure.

Incision vertical  
Incision horizontal 

The incision on the back may be horizontal or vertical. It can be hidden by most types of clothing and/or behind the bra line.

The tissue expander is filled with normal saline (salt water) to stretch the muscle to create a pocket for the permanent implant. This may start as early as 2 weeks after your operation and once incisions heal. The expansion process will take place every 1 to 2 weeks in clinic.​

Tissue Expander

Using a needle and syringe, normal saline is injected into the tissue expander to stretch the skin and muscle to create space for the permanent implant.

After the last expansion, there is a healing phase of approximately 3 months before the tissue expander is removed and a permanent implant is put in place.

Permanent implant

Permanent implant based breast reconstruction


Planning for your operation

If you were given a prescription and asked by your plastic surgeon to wash your skin with antibiotic soap, please wash your chest area (from the collar bone down to your belly button) and your back every day starting 7 days before your operation.

Your surgeon will discuss with you if you need to purchase a supportive surgical bra. You will be asked to bring this with you to your operation.​

How long will I need to stay in the hospital?

You can expect to be discharged 1 to 2 days after your Latissimus Dorsi Flap operation or the same day if you are having your tissue expander exchanged for a permanent implant.

Average recovery for a Latissimus Dorsi Flap operation is 3 to 4 weeks. You will be unable to do any heavy lifting of more than 10 pounds for 4 to 6 weeks after your operation. As well, you will be unable to lift anything over 10 pounds for the first 24 hours after your tissue expander inflation.

The recovery for tissue expander exchange to permanent implant insertion is 2 to 3 weeks. You will not be able to do any heavy lifting of more than 10 pounds for 4 to 6 weeks after your operation.​​


Stop smoking before your surgery

Download a printable version of the full guide:
Breast Reconstruction Surgery Guide​​​
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