Effect of Breast Reconstruction on Kinematics and Performance during Upper Limb-Focused Functional Tasks

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2022 Oct 1;150(4):747e-756e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000009522. Epub 2022 Jul 22.


Background: Breast reconstruction after curative breast cancer surgery is becoming increasingly common. There is evidence to suggest that these surgeries have negative effects on shoulder function, but to date there have been no investigations of shoulder biomechanics during functional tasks in this group. The purpose of this study was to define and compare upper limb motion of patients with breast cancer who underwent mastectomy only or mastectomy with reconstruction with a control group without cancer during a range of work-related functional tasks.

Methods: Ninety-five women participated: 25 controls, 25 patients with breast cancer who received a mastectomy only, and 45 patients with breast cancer who received a mastectomy with reconstruction (implant, latissimus dorsi flap, or deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap). Motion of the torso, humeri, and scapulae were tracked during arm-focused functional tasks, involving reaching, dexterity, and lifting overhead, and joint angles were calculated. Mean, maximum, and minimum angles were calculated and compared among groups using one-way analyses of variance ( p < 0.05).

Results: The reconstruction group had significantly different kinematics than the other two groups. Throughout task performance, patients who had reconstruction had increased scapular posterior tilt and increased humeral external rotation. These findings are consistent with reconstruction surgical procedures and may highlight muscle pattern alterations that interfere with co-contraction, stability, and functional task performance.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that breast reconstruction surgery influences functional task performance. Scapular and humeral kinematics may indicate movement pattern differences that are important to address in rehabilitation.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Risk, II.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty*
  • Mastectomy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Upper Extremity* / physiology