Breast oedema following free flap breast reconstruction

Jennifer Greenhowe*, Christopher Stephen, Liusaidh McClymont, D. Alex Munnoch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Breast oedema causes significant morbidity and is historically difficult to quantify. The aim of this study was to identify changes in breast tissue water content from pre-operative levels in the native breast to post-operative levels in mastectomy skin flaps and free flaps in the reconstructed breast. Materials and methods: One hundred patients undergoing unilateral mastectomy and immediate free flap breast reconstruction were examined pre-operatively and at three post-operative appointments. A validated moisture meter was used to record dermal water percentages of each breast quadrant and areola in both breasts pre-operatively, then four quadrants of both breasts plus the unaffected areola and free flap at each post-operative review. Results and conclusion: Native skin of the reconstructed breast showed significant, persistent increase in MWC from 45.6% ± 0.5% to 72.8% ± 0.9% at 1st follow up (p < 0.001), decreasing only to 67.6% ± 0.8% by 3rd follow up. There was a marked difference (p < 0.001) in the mean water content (MWC) of the initial free flap (39.7% ± 0.6%) compared to 61.8% ± 1.7% at 1st follow up, then 55.1% ± 1.4% at 2nd and 53.7% ± 1.3% at 3rd follow ups. The unaffected breast showed a small but significant increase in MWC of all quadrants at subsequent follow up (greatest difference 3.1% at 1st follow up). This patient group demonstrates significant, persistent oedema of the reconstructed breast, which can be monitored using a non-invasive moisture meter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-76
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • breast oedema
  • moisture meter
  • flap reconstruction


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