'Love Handles' Can Come in Handy for Breast Reconstruction

Fat between waist and hip in thin, athletic mastectomy patients works, study suggests

FRIDAY, April 16, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- In thin, athletic women who need breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, an adequate source of body fat can be hard for surgeons to find, but researchers now say "love handles" may be the answer.

And, the surgical technique for this procedure has an added bonus: It's less complicated than other strategies, according to the report released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Microsurgery.

"When implants aren't used, the most common technique for reconstructing breasts after a mastectomy is to make breast tissue from a flap of fat and skin from the abdominal region," study co-author Dr. Ariel N. Rad, an assistant professor of cosmetic surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a news release from the school. "Thin, athletic women don't have enough tissue there. But even they often have some excess fatty tissue in that space between the hip and waist. For them, using those love handles is a new option."

This is an alternative to pulling fat from the buttocks, a strategy that can be deforming and often requires follow-up surgery, Rad said.

Rad and colleagues tested the technique on 12 patients between 2008 and 2009. All successfully underwent breast reconstruction.

The technique won't be appropriate for every thin woman, Rad said. But for those who are eligible for it, the treatment can actually make their waists and hips look better, he added.

More information

To learn more about breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy, visit the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, April 13, 2010
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