Sunday, November 19, 2006

Age Not An Exclusion Criterion for Breast Reconstruction

Breast Reconstruction in Older Women: Should Age Be an Exclusion Criterion?

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 118(1):16-22, July 2006.
Bowman, Cameron C. M.D.; Lennox, Peter A. M.D.; Clugston, Patricia A. M.D. +; Courtemanche, Douglas J. M.D., M.S.

Background: At present, breast reconstruction is undertaken by fewer than 10 percent of breast cancer patients undergoing mastectomy. Even though the benefits are numerous, this finding is even more notable among older women. Traditionally, women older than the age of 60 have been offered implant reconstruction or no reconstruction at all in hopes of minimizing potential morbidity. This practice may be due to a number of factors including a lack of patient education and information, as well as physician/surgeon bias regarding the safety or relevance of breast reconstruction in older women.

Methods: The authors undertook a retrospective study in which they surveyed 75 women (age range, 60 to 77 years) from two surgeons' practices who underwent various forms of breast reconstruction over the past 8 years. Type of reconstruction, recovery time, and complication rate were correlated with patient satisfaction, general health, and quality of life.

Results: An 81 percent response rate was obtained, yielding an average age of 66.6 years over a 3.8-year period. The overall rate of complications requiring operative intervention was 20.5 percent. When asked whether age should be a determining factor for breast reconstruction, more than 90 percent felt that it should not be. Only 16.1 percent of patients who had a delayed reconstruction stated that the option of breast reconstruction was presented to them at the time of their diagnosis, although 100 percent felt that it should have been. A significantly poorer physical health score was found among patients who experienced a complication, and lower mental health scores correlated with women who were less satisfied with their outcome.

Conclusions: The authors believe that all types of reconstruction should be an option for women older than 60 years of age and that age as an isolated factor should not deter physicians from offering these women the option of breast reconstruction.


Dr Chrysopoulo is board certified in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and specializes in breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy for breast cancer. He and his partners perform hundreds of microsurgical breast reconstructions with perforator flaps each year including the DIEP flap procedure. PRMA Plastic Surgery, San Antonio, Texas. Toll Free: (800) 692-5565. Keep up to date with the latest breast reconstruction news by following Dr Chrysopoulo's Breast Reconstruction Blog.


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