All patients undergoing breast reconstruction with free transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flaps from February 1989 to November 1992 were registered into a computerized database and followed prospectively. There were 211 free TRAM flap breast reconstructions in 163 patients; 48 reconstructions were bilateral. A muscle split technique was used in 108 of 211 reconstructions (51%). Total flap loss occurred in 3 of 211 reconstructions for a success rate of 99%. Complications occurred in 81 of 211 reconstructions (38%). Fat necrosis or partial flap loss occurred in 15 of 211 (7%). Hernia or bulge occurred in 11 patients (5%). The bulge/hernia rate tended to be lower in the muscle split group (4 of 108 [4%]) than in those who did not have muscle split procedures (7 of 103 [7%]), whereas the fat necrosis rate was slightly higher in the former group (9 of 108 [8%]) than in the latter (6 of 103 [6%]). Neither difference was statistically significant. However, patients who currently or previously smoked cigarettes did have a significantly higher incidence of fat necrosis: 12 of 99 smokers (12%) had fat necrosis compared with 3 of 112 nonsmokers (3%; p = 0.02).
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