Shoulder function following autologous latissimus dorsi breast reconstruction. A prospective three year observational study comparing quilting and non-quilting donor site techniques

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2010 Sep;63(9):1505-12. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2009.08.017. Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Latissimus dorsi harvest and axillary surgery can affect shoulder function. The effect of autologous latissimus dorsi flap (ALD) breast reconstruction and donor site quilting have been inadequately studied. A cohort of ALD flap breast reconstruction patients were assessed pre-operatively and at eight post-operative time-points (up to 3 years after reconstruction) using the self-administered Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) outcome measure, for which validated normative data is available. Patients with incidental shoulder conditions and bilateral reconstructions were excluded. This was a prospective, observational study with blinded data interpretation: 58 patients, 22 of whom had donor site quilting, were assessed. Groups were compatible demographically, in breast care management and in pre-operative DASH score (quilted 6.5, non-quilted 6.4; P=0.98). Scores were significantly increased at initial post-operative clinic review (mean 49, SD19; P<0.001), 6 week (29, SD20; P<0.001), and 3 month (19, SD19; P<0.01), thereafter remaining at a plateau value of approximately 15 (P>0.05). Seroma incidence was reduced in the quilted group (5% vs 70%). A strong, significant correlation was found between 3 month DASH score and long term function (r=0.66, P<0.0003); patients with DASH >20 fare significantly worse in the longterm (mean 20 point increase, SD5.0, P<0.001). Higher post-operative DASH scores correlated significantly with pre-operative DASH (r=0.58) and BMI (r=0.36). Adjuvant therapy had no effect on shoulder function. Axillary dissection had a weak correlation with a higher DASH score, but only at the 3-month post-operative time-point (r=0.32, P=0.03). ALD flap breast reconstruction generally results in a functionally insignificant increase (6.5 points) in longterm DASH score, although a small subset of patients do develop longterm impairment, and quilting does not appear to inhibit shoulder function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Axilla / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / transplantation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seroma / epidemiology
  • Shoulder / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder / surgery*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Suture Techniques*
  • Treatment Outcome