Regional first: Highly advanced procedure added to CMH’s Breast Reconstruction Program

Fri, 05/17/2024 - 07:30

Dr Kathryn Sawa 2024



Media Release (May 17)

Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH) is thrilled to announce the successful completion of the Region’s first Diagonal Upper Gracilis (DUG) free flap breast reconstruction surgery. Conducted in January 2024 by Plastic & Reconstructive surgeon Dr. Kathryn Sawa, this milestone represents a significant leap forward for CMH’s breast reconstruction program, placing it among a few healthcare centers across North America to offer this intricate and advanced reconstructive option.  

Sawa elaborated, "This intricate microsurgery involves transplanting tissue from the patient's inner thigh to the chest, meticulously reconnecting tiny blood vessels to create a living reconstructed breast. It offers a choice to patients who may not be candidates for the more common DIEP free flap surgery, empowering them to avoid implants and utilize their own tissue. "

While both procedures leverage the patient's own tissue for breast reconstruction, they differ in the tissues utilized and surgical techniques employed. When patients are deemed unsuitable for DIEP flap surgery due to factors such as inadequate abdominal tissue or concerns regarding abdominal integrity, the DUG flap, utilizing part of the thigh, may be a viable alternative. 

The advantages to these surgeries are many, including reduced risk of complications, enhanced aesthetics, and a more seamless healing process. Both yield natural-looking results and are available at CMH for patients seeking breast reconstruction. 

Dr. Winnie Lee, Chief of Staff, remarked that "this achievement underscores our commitment to deliver comprehensive services across the breast health spectrum. They are ready to treat breast cancer and offer specialized, advanced reconstructive surgery for patients, right here, close to home. 

Barb Burns, the patient that had the procedure, agreed, “I am so grateful that I did not have to go to Toronto or elsewhere for this surgery. I am very impressed with the care that we receive in this region. It’s important to me that people to know we have world-class care right here in our community.” 

The surgery took 8 hours to complete. Including Sawa, it involved five physicians, many nursing staff, and the expertise of staff and physicians pre and post surgery. This surgery builds on Sawa’s success of performing the Region's first innervated DIEP free flap procedure in 2021 that can restore sensation to the reconstructed breast.