Early postoperative outcomes in implant, pedicled, and free flap reconstruction for breast cancer: an analysis of 23,834 patients from the ACS-NSQIP datasets

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2021 Jun;187(2):525-533. doi: 10.1007/s10549-020-06073-8. Epub 2021 Jan 19.


Introduction: Many patients seek breast reconstruction following mastectomy. Debate exists regarding the best reconstructive option. The authors evaluate outcomes comparing implant, free flap, and pedicled flap reconstruction.

Methods: Patients undergoing implant, pedicled flap, and free flap reconstruction were identified in the 2011-2016 NSQIP database. Demographics were analyzed and covariates were balanced using overlap propensity score. Logistic regression was used for binary outcomes and Gamma GLM for length of stay (LOS).

Results: Of 23,834 patients, 87.7% underwent implant, 8.1% free flap, and 4.2% pedicled flap reconstruction. The implant group had the lowest mean operative time (206 min, SD 85.6). Implant patients had less pneumonia (OR 0.09, CI 0.02-0.36, p < 0.01), return to operating room (OR 0.62, CI 0.50-0.75, p < 0.01), venous thromboembolism (VTE) (OR 0.33, CI 0.14-0.79, p = 0.01), postoperative bleeding (OR 0.10, CI 0.06-0.15, p < 0.01), and urinary tract infections (UTI) (OR 0.21, CI 0.07-0.58, p < 0.01) than free flap patients. Pedicled flap patients had less postoperative bleeding (OR 0.69, CI 0.49-0.96, p = 0.03) than free flap patients. Pedicled flap patients had more superficial surgical site infections (p = 0.03), pneumonia (p = 0.02), postoperative bleeding (p < 0.01), VTE (p = 0.04), sepsis (p = 0.05), and unplanned reintubation (p = 0.01) than implant patients. Implant patients had the lowest LOS (1.6 days, p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Implant reconstruction has less short-term postoperative complications than free flaps and pedicled flap reconstructions. The overall complication rate among all reconstructive modalities remains acceptably low and patients should be informed of all surgical options.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Breast reconstruction; Free flaps; Implants; NSQIP.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Female
  • Free Tissue Flaps*
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty* / adverse effects
  • Mastectomy
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies