Ask the Doctor – DIEP Flap

diep flap

Q:  I am weeks out from a unilateral DIEP flap procedure on my right side. Regarding the tightness and cramping in the abdominal area, is there any type of stretching or massage that can be done to speed healing and/or alleviate discomfort? Also, when can I begin to use moisturizers for scar reduction, and what type would you recommend?

A:  Good afternoon, thank you for reaching out to us. Those are great questions! Who was the plastic surgeon who did your DIEP procedure? It might be best to reach out to your surgeon about these questions since every practice has different recommendations. We tell our patients to leave the abdominal incision alone – to let it heal on its own – so we often discourage patients from doing any serious stretching or massage until a few months after surgery. It is OK to try standing up a little straighter each day, but you never want to force it. The tightness and discomfort will resolve on its own over time with little intervention. As far as the scars go, a lot depends on whether your surgeon feels you would benefit from having the abdomen redone at a later stage to remove scar tissue, lower the incision or remove extra skin for an aesthetically pleasing result. If you have the incision reopened, there is no reason to worry about the scars now. If you do not intend to revise the abdominal incision, then we recommend waiting closer to at least 2-3 months post-op before using any scar products.

I hope this was helpful. Please let us know if we can answer additional questions for you and we wish you the best in your recovery. Have a great day!

Audrey Rowen, PA-C, East Cooper Plastic Surgery, The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, Phone: (843) 849-8418, Fax: (843) 849-8419, 1300 Hospital Drive, Suite 120, Mount Pleasant, S.C. 29464.


  1. Cassy Fuhrman says:

    what is the success rate for someone with:
    a-bilat mastectomy with immediate reconstruction 2011 d/t breast cancer
    b-encapsulation 2016 with several fat graft attempts
    c-failed implant on radiated breast site (L) removed 12/2016
    d-removed R implant 2/2017

    now am searching DIEP options

    • Hi Cassy and thanks for your comment. Both of our surgeons are in the operating room but as soon as I can get an answer to your question I’ll post another reply. I’m anticipating that the answer is going to be no different than our current success rate of 99% for DIEP but I want to check to be certain. – Gail, Practice Manager

      • Hi Ms. Furhman,

        I’m sorry you have had so much trouble.
        Fortunately, none of your prior problems affect the success rate of DIEP flaps in our practice.
        Last month we tabulated and presented our 15 year flap experience. After 1362 DIEP flaps, the overall survival rate was 99.0%. Neither radiation nor previous failed implant reconstructions affects the flap survival rate. Many, many, many patients with a history of radiation and multiple implant failures have gone on to have successful DIEP flap reconstructions.
        I would be happy to meet with you and review your options, or chat with you by phone, just let us know how we can help.

        Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD
        East Cooper Plastic Surgery –
        The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction
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