San Antonio's Methodist Hospital is one of only two facilities in the country offering a new technology to help in breast reconstruction surgery — a system that gives doctors a more precise way to see what they are operating on.
Plastic surgeon, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo is a man on a mission. He wants more breast cancer patients to know that when they face a mastectomy, they can have their breast reconstructed at the same time. Dr. Chrysopoulo performs the new procedure at the Methodist Hospital.
It's a specialized form of breast reconstruction surgery called the "DIEP flap", where doctors take skin and fat from the patient's abdomen, and use it to form a natural-looking breast by using Novadaq's new imaging system called "SPY…" the doctor is able to preserve stomach muscles, while transferring skin and fat. The key is a special dye — a fluorescent agent injected into the body during the four hour operation.
"It's a bit like an angiogram but without exposing the patient to radiation," said Dr. Chrysopoulo. "The dye travels through the bloodstream and basically lights up the blood vessels. It provides a bit of a road map for us, and it helps us identify these vessels a little bit quicker. It helps us formulate the best surgical plan so that we can preserve the patient's abdominal muscle."
Dr. Chrysopoulo and his partners have used the SPY system on about 150 patients since February with great success. After time, the resulting breast is natural looking, and for the patient, a natural feeling.
While the abdomen is scarred like after a tummy tuck procedure, the abdominal muscles and core strength can be preserved. This tedious microsurgery is on the cutting edge of breast reconstruction. Doctors say waking up from cancer surgery with a new breast can make a big difference on a woman's outlook.
"Psycho-socially, it's a huge deal to wake up without a flat chest," Dr. Chrysopoulo said.
Only about 40 plastic surgeons in the country are using this particular procedure routinely. Patients come to San Antonio from all over the United States and even from some foreign countries to have the operation that promises less pain, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.
Dr Chrysopoulo and his partners are breast reconstruction specialists and perform hundreds of DIEP flaps every year. Learn more about DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery here.