3D-printed, patient-specific DIEP flap templates for preoperative planning in breast reconstruction: a prospective case series

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Background: Modern imaging technologies, such as computed tomographic angiography (CTA), can be useful for preoperative assessment in deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap surgery. Planning perforator flap design can lead to improved surgical efficiency. However, current imaging modalities are limited by being displayed on a two-dimensional (2D) surface. In contrast, a 3D-printed model provides tactile feedback that facilitates superior understanding. Hence, we have 3D-printed patient-specific deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) templates, in an affordable and convenient manner, for preoperative planning. Methods: Twenty consecutive patients undergoing 25 immediate or delayed post-mastectomy autologous breast reconstruction with DIEP or muscle-sparing transverse rectus abdominis (MS-TRAM) flaps are recruited prospectively. Using free, open-source softwares (3D Slicer, Autodesk MeshMixer, and Cura) and desktop 3D printers (Ultimaker 3E and Moment), we created a template based on a patient's abdominal wall anatomy from CTA, with holes and lines indicating the position of perforators, their intramuscular course and the DIEA pedicle. Results: The mean age of patients was 52 [38-67]. There were 15 immediate and 10 delayed reconstructions. 3D printing time took mean 18 hours and 123.7 g of plastic filament, which calculates to a mean material cost of AUD 8.25. DIEP templates accurately identified the perforators and reduced intraoperative perforator identification by 7.29 minutes (P=0.02). However, the intramuscular dissection time was not affected (P=0.34). Surgeons found the template useful for preoperative marking (8.6/10) and planning (7.9/10), but not for intramuscular dissection (5.9/10). There were no immediate flap-related complications. Conclusions: Our 3D-printed, patient-specific DIEP template is accurate, significantly reduces intraoperative perforator identification time and, hence, may be a useful tool for preoperative planning in autologous breast reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2192-2199
Number of pages8
JournalGland Surgery
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • 3D printing
  • autologous breast reconstruction
  • deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP)
  • preoperative planning
  • surgical template

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