Purpose: To conduct a systematic review of the literature to assess outcomes data on complications associated with implant-based breast reconstruction performed before or after chest wall radiation to assist in guiding the decision-making process for reconstruction of the irradiated breast. Methods: Studies from a PubMed search that met predetermined inclusion criteria were identified and included. Complications of interest were low- and high-grade capsular contractures, minor and major complications, reconstruction failure rates, and reconstruction completion rates. Pooled complication rates were calculated. Results: A total of 26 articles were included in the study after screening 1,006 publications, with 14 studies presenting data on prereconstruction radiation and 23 studies presenting data on postreconstruction radiation. Complication rates evaluated in patients exposed to radiation before or after implant reconstruction were not significantly different. Reconstruction failure rates were similar at 19 and 20 % for pre- and postreconstruction radiation patients, respectively. Completion rates were similar at 83 and 80 % for pre- and postreconstruction radiation patients, respectively. Conclusions: Review of the current literature suggests similar overall success and failure rates with radiotherapy provided both before and after reconstruction. Failure rates in both groups of patients are clinically significant when considering implant reconstruction in the setting of radiation.
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