Background: Social media are used for information sharing among patients with similar health conditions, and analysis of social media activity could inform clinical decision-making. The aim of this study was to use Facebook to evaluate a cohort of individuals' perceptions of and satisfaction with breast reconstruction.
Methods: In this observational study, the authors collected and analyzed posts pertaining to autologous and implant-based breast reconstruction from active Facebook groups. Patient satisfaction data were categorized, and a thematic analysis of posts was conducted. Qualitative posts were grouped based on common themes and quantitatively compared using frequency and chi-square analysis.
Results: The authors evaluated 500 posts from two Facebook groups. Two hundred sixty-four posts referenced deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap reconstruction and 117 were related to implant-based reconstruction. Among individuals referencing DIEP flap reconstruction, 52 percent were satisfied, compared with 20 percent of individuals who referenced satisfaction with implant-based reconstruction (p < 0.0001). Individuals posting about DIEP flaps reported a higher rate of unexpected side effects (p < 0.001) and numbness (p = 0.004). When referencing implant-based reconstruction, individuals reported significantly higher rates of infection, contracture, and implant failure (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Based on the authors' review of social media activity, individuals undergoing DIEP flap breast reconstruction expressed relatively high individual satisfaction despite difficult postoperative recovery. Individuals who referenced implant-based reconstruction mentioned infection and implant failure, leading to high rates of dissatisfaction. Social media appear to provide informational and emotional support to patients. Plastic surgeons can use social media to gather unbiased information of patients' experience to inform clinical conversation and guide clinical practice.