Comparison of unipedicled and bipedicled TRAM flap breast reconstructions: assessment of physical function and patient satisfaction

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Jan;113(1):136-40. doi: 10.1097/01.PRS.0000095939.19970.D5.


Many variations of the transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap breast reconstruction have been attempted since the procedure was first described. One common modification involves the use of both rectus muscles, which may accommodate a bilateral reconstruction or provide a more reliable blood supply to a unilateral reconstruction. Objective studies measuring various aspects of physical strength after bilateral rectus harvest and subjective reports of various physical symptoms have challenged the morbidity of a double-rectus harvest. Whether this represents increased morbidity in practical terms is best clarified by asking the patients. To answer this question, 124 TRAM flap reconstruction patients (62 unipedicled patients and 62 bipedicled patients) completed a survey containing questions regarding postoperative physical activities and abilities, outcome with regard to specific physical symptoms, and satisfaction with the procedure. The overwhelming majority of patients reported no untoward effect postoperatively regarding the following: workday performance (>or=90 percent), workday performance involving physical labor (>or=78 percent), physical recreation (>or=77 percent), abdominal appearance (>or=77 percent), standing posture (>or=95 percent), and back pain (>or=81 percent). When comparing unipedicled and bipedicled TRAM patient groups, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups for any of these criteria. However, a subjective decrease in abdominal muscle strength was reported by 42 percent of unipedicled and 64 percent of bipedicled TRAM flap patients, and decreased abdominal muscle strength was the most frequently cited reason for dissatisfaction. Interestingly, this decreased strength did not affect the daily activities of the majority of patients, who were happy with the procedure (96 percent) and would recommend it to others (96 percent).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall
  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / adverse effects