Preoperative cross-sectional mapping for deep inferior epigastric and profunda artery perforator flaps
Perforator flap-based breast reconstruction in a post mastectomy patient requires dissection of the artery-vein bundle (perforators) responsible for perfusion of the subcutaneous fat and skin of the flap. Traditionally, these reconstructions were performed with the transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap, but autologous breast reconstruction using muscle sparing free flaps has become steadily more popular in recent years. Preoperative imaging to locate and evaluate candidate perforators has become an essential step before patients undergo the microsurgical procedure. Preoperative mapping assists with operative planning, reduces operating times, and brings anatomical variations to their attention. Pre-operative imaging also assists in choosing the appropriate donor site for harvesting flaps. Computed tomography angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) have been widely used for this type of preoperative imaging. Both MRA and CTA have their inherent advantages and disadvantages, and the preferred modality for this purpose varies by institution based on factors such as scanner availability, radiologist and surgeon experience, and comfort in interpreting the images. Concerns over excessive exposure to ionizing radiation and poor iodinated contrast agent enhancement of the intramuscular perforator course has made MRA the first-choice imaging modality in many centers. The purpose of the article is to review technique and protocols for the pre-operative CTA/MRA in patients who are being considered for a deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) or profunda artery perforator (PAP) flap and to familiarize the reader with the normal and variant anatomic features of the deep inferior epigastric and PAP vessels along with the anatomic and surgical considerations used in the selection of perforator flap donor site for breast reconstruction post mastectomy.