Improving Free Flap Reconstruction

Life After Breast Cancer Research USA: ‘free-flap’ transfer


iStock_000062853464_FullFree-flap’ transfers offer an alternative to artificial breast implants. During surgery, a section of tissue (fat and skin), along with blood vessels, is transferred from another part of the body to the mastectomy site. The blood vessels in the transferred tissue are then joined to those at the site using microsurgery to re-establish blood flow, enabling the transplant to survive.

Complications include tissue loss, necrosis (cell failure), delayed wound healing and vein congestion. All of which are directly related to poor blood flow and can lead to repeat operations, prolonged recovery, pain, and scarring – with a huge emotional impact on the patient.

Currently, one in ten ‘free flap’ transfers fail.

RAFT’s Dr. Anita Mohan is working in collaboration with Professor Michel St-Cyr, Professor of Plastic Surgery and a world authority on vascular supply in free flap transfer at the Mayo Clinic, USA.

Our research uses real-time imaging techniques so only the most high-quality vascularised tissue is transferred, increasing its chances of survival.

We are also developing a technique that will increase vascularity before the transferred tissue is placed in the mastectomy area – this will increase the blood flow even further and ensure the best possible chance of a successful outcome.


The research programme is moving quickly and we anticipate that our new surgical techniques for breast reconstruction will benefit women from as early as 2017.


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We understand that rebuilding lives after breast cancer does not finish with a mastectomy