Background: Breast reconstruction following mastectomy has been shown to have a salutary effect on the overall psychological well-being of women being treated for breast cancer. Unfortunately, however, not every patient is an ideal candidate for reconstruction. Complications stemming from reconstructive surgery can cause significant morbidity, the most important of which may be the delay of subsequent adjuvant antineoplastic therapies, and therefore may not be in the best interests of the patient.
Methods: A retrospective study was performed on a consecutive series of 123 breast reconstructions in 98 patients, performed by one of two plastic surgeons, in a university setting over a 5-year period, for all surgical outcomes. Specifically, wound-healing complications, infections, and reoperations leading to the potential delay of subsequent chemotherapy or radiotherapy were recorded, and possible risk factors leading to these were sought.
Results: Three presurgical risk factors were found to have a statistically significant influence on the development of complications following breast reconstruction. These were: (1) increasing obesity, defined by the body mass index, (2) an active or recent (<5 year) history of cigarette smoking, and (3) a history of previous radiation exposure. Odds ratios were used to describe the magnitude of the effect of each factor for the development of complications. An ordinal regression analysis was used to create a nomogram based on this information that can be used to calculate any individual patient's presurgical risk for developing major complications following breast reconstruction, based on the presence of these factors.
Conclusions: It is possible, based on the presence of specific presurgical risk factors, to predict the probability of developing major complications following breast reconstruction. This information can be useful to the referring physician and plastic surgeon alike in determining which patients are the best candidates for breast reconstruction and which type of reconstruction would be best suited for each individual patient.