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Barcelona doctors can perform breast reconstruction in a single surgery

A surgical team of the Hospital de Bellvitge in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Greater Barcelona, has successfully reconstructed the breasts of 22 women suffering from cancer in one single surgery. This world pioneer medical procedure, consisting in transplanting dorsal muscle on to the removed breast, allows patients to “turn the page” on the disease much more quickly, according to Joan Maria Vinyals, the Head of plastic surgery. Indeed, this “complete and radical reconstruction”, which includes the nipple and areola, avoids having to proceed to a second surgery and erases the usual trauma regarding aesthetic concerns. Leonor Garrido, one of the patients, stated that the technique “had improved a lot” her quality of life since she had her tumour removed and the breast entirely reconstructed immediatly after.

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30 January 2014 11:51 PM

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ACN / Sergi Sabaté

Barcelona (ACN).- In the past year and a half, a surgical team of the Hospital de Bellvitge in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Greater Barcelona, has successfully reconstructed the breasts of 22 women suffering from cancer in one single surgery, during the mastectomy. This world pioneer procedure, consisting in transplanting dorsal muscle on to the removed breast, allows patients to “turn the page” on the disease much more quickly, according to Joan Maria Vinyals, the Head of plastic surgery.Indeed, this “complete and radical reconstruction”, which includes the nipple and areola, avoids having to immediately proceed to a second surgery and erases the usual trauma regarding aesthetic concerns.One of the 22 patients, Leonor Garrido explained that the surgery had “much improved” her quality of life, since she had her tumour removed and the breast entirely reconstructed in the same surgery procedure. Four days after the surgery, she was back at home and “physically, [she] looked good”. The new pioneer technique at international level, developed by a Catalan team, has been reported by Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal, the world’s most prestigious publication in the field of plastic surgery. Bellvitge Hospital is part of Catalonia's public healthcare system.


According to the doctors of Bellvitge Hospital’s Plastic Surgery Department, nowadays, most cases of breast cancer are detected and diagnosed at an early stage, when the tumour is still small and can be treated by conservative surgery, only removing part of the breast tissue. However, on 25%-35% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors have no other choice but to practice a total mastectomy to remove the malignant tumour.

A “single intervention” for a “complete reconstruction”

In this regard, the doctors have succeeded in reconstructing the entire breast affected by cancer in one minimally invasive intervention, ensuring that the patient doesn’t have to undergo surgery again. “With a single intervention, you can make a full, absolute and radical recovery and a complete reconstruction of the breast with all its elements” explained Dr. Joan Maria Vinyals, the Head of plastic surgery at the Hospital de Bellvitge. “It is only a single intervention and the price to be paid by the patient is a scar on the back” added the Surgeon Joaquim Muñoz, who pointed out that before, the procedure could only be done “with a prosthetic reconstruction” and that usually the patients had to go under the knife more times.

Thus, during the mastectomy, the surgeons also proceed to the comprehensive reconstruction of the breast, including the nipple and areola. An unprecedented intervention, since until now the reconstruction of these two parts was done quite some time later, between three months and one year after the first surgery. “With this step forward, we get to lessen the patients’ trauma, who usually suffered from seeing the newly reconstructed breast without a nipple and areola” said Joaquim Muñoz.

Using dorsal muscle to reconstruct the removed breast

Additionally, this surgery is performed thanks to a pioneer technique developed in the past three years in the Catalan hospital: dorsal muscle is removed using an endoscopy before being transplanted on to the removed breast. According to the doctors, the entire process is thus accomplished with minimal invasion, as the muscle in the breast is always transplanted from beneath the skin: “We transplant the muscle through a small incision in the back that leaves a scar which is less than five inches long, and is hidden under the bra. The other necessary scar is also hidden, under the armpit” explained Muñoz

Another advantage of this innovative technique, using the muscle of the patient to reconstruct the breast, is the possibility to rapidly proceed to necessary treatments, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, since the procedure prevents any related complications from arising.

“It has improved my quality of life”, says patient

So far 22 patients only have undergone this surgery. One of them was Leonor Garrido, a 47 year-old woman living in the neighbouring city of Sant Boi de Llobregat (Greater Barcelona). She said she had been anxious at the thought of undergoing the surgery but that avoiding the intensive care unit had calmed such fears: “I spent four days in the hospital and I went home without further complications”, she recalled.

She insisted: I was “thrilled” because “I had overtaken the disease, but also looked good and this is very important” because “I can go to the beach or to the pool and you do not notice the surgery”. She remembered that after the procedure “the first contact with the body was nice, you know you had surgery and a breast removed, but physically I looked good”.

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  • The patient Leonor Garrido and part of the medical team (by S. Sabaté)

  • The patient Leonor Garrido and part of the medical team (by S. Sabaté)