PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Oncology - Radiology and Medical Imaging - Surgery

Functional MRI To Evaluate “Sense of Self” following Perforator Flap Breast Reconstruction
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Author: Stephanie A. Caterson et al.

by Stephanie A. Caterson, Sharon E. Fox, Adam M. Tobias, Bernard T. Lee


Breast reconstruction is associated with high levels of patient satisfaction. Previous patient satisfaction studies have been subjective. This study utilizes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to objectively evaluate “sense of self” following deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction in an attempt to better understand patient perception.


Prospective fMRI analysis was performed on four patients before and after delayed unilateral DIEP flap breast reconstruction, and on four patients after immediate unilateral DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Patients were randomly cued to palpate their natural breast, mastectomy site or breast reconstruction, and external silicone models. Three regions of interest (ROIs) associated with self-recognition were examined using a general linear model, and compared using a fixed effects and random effects ANOVA, respectively.


In the delayed reconstruction group, activation of the ROIs was significantly lower at the mastectomy site compared to the natural breast (p<0.01). Ten months following reconstruction, activation of the ROIs in the reconstructed breast was not significantly different from that observed with natural breast palpation. In the immediate reconstruction group, palpation of the reconstructed breast was also similar to the natural breast. This activity was greater than that observed during palpation of external artificial models (p<0.01).


Similar activation patterns were observed during palpation of the reconstructed and natural breasts as compared to the non-reconstructed mastectomy site and artificial models. The cognitive process represented by this pattern may be a mechanism by which breast reconstruction improves self-perception, and thus patient satisfaction following mastectomy.