Breast Reconstruction Using Back Tissue

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center offers the latest techniques in breast reconstruction, including the use of back tissue. With many different options for breast reconstruction, it’s important to have a resource you can trust. Our caring team of experts is here to answer any questions you may have as you explore breast reconstruction surgery.

What Is Breast Reconstruction Using Back Tissue?

Breast reconstruction may use back tissue from your latissimus dorsi muscle, which is located just below your shoulder and behind your armpit. In a latissimus dorsi (LD) flap, an oval patch of skin, fat, muscle and blood vessels is removed from your upper back to rebuild the breast.

The tissue from your back is moved to your chest with the arteries and veins still attached. However, most women do not have enough fatty tissue on their backs, so an implant or tissue expander is often used. The process to use a tissue expander can take several months.

The LD flap leaves a scar on your back, which most surgeons can hide under your bra strap. Patients generally have favorable results, with no major long-term problems. On average, women recovering from an LD flap stay in the hospital for four days with average recovery of three to four weeks to return to normal activity.

Advantages of Reconstruction with Back Flap

  • Decreased surgery and recovery time
  • Good coverage over the implant
  • One-time surgery, if the implant placed immediately
  • Good option for thin patients
  • Good for patients who have had radiation therapy
  • Donor tissue is close to breast

Disadvantages of Reconstruction with Back Flap

  • Potential loss of strength or function in back and chest
  • May need an implant along with a latissimus dorsi flap
  • Some women say their latissimus dorsi reconstructed breast feels "tighter"

Risks and Side Effects of Reconstruction with Back Flap

It’s important to follow instructions from your doctor before, during and after your procedure. This will lower your risk of complications. Tell your doctor immediately if you think something is wrong.

Potential side effects of an LD flap:

  • Pain and nausea: It’s common to feel pain post-surgery or sick from anesthesia. Your doctor can prescribe you medications to treat these conditions.
  • Tissue breakdown: In rare instances, the tissue moved from your back to your breast area won't get enough circulation and some of the tissue might die.
  • Lumps: If blood supply is cut off to the fat used to rebuild your breast, it may be replaced by firm scar tissue that feels like a lump.
  • Muscle weakness: You may have partial loss of strength or function that makes it hard to lift things and twist.
  • Implant risks: If you've had an implant along with latissimus dorsi reconstruction, there are also risks unique to implant reconstruction.

If you have questions about what to expect from breast reconstruction surgery or any other breast cancer concerns, Banner MD Anderson’s experienced team of physicians is here to help.