Introduction: Current evidence suggests that patients who have latissimus dorsi (LD) breast reconstruction following mastectomy for breast cancer can experience long-term shoulder dysfunction. However, as there is no standardised assessment or follow-up period within the literature, findings are conflicting. This research aimed to investigate the impact on daily living of immediate and delayed LD breast reconstruction in women following mastectomy for breast cancer.Methods: Both qualitative and quantitative methods of enquiry were used. A focus group study explored the musculoskeletal consequences of surgery as perceived by the women (n=15) and their healthcare professionals (n=11). A questionnaire survey was administered (n=159), including a range of outcome measures to quantify both the physical and psychosocial impact of LD breast reconstruction. Dyad interviews were also conducted in order to determine the impact of surgery on function and activities of daily living (ADL) from the woman's perspective and that of her significant other (n=8). Results: The qualitative studies highlighted a lack of preparedness and unrealistic expectations regarding functional recovery among women and their significant others'. Post-surgery it was apparent that women weighed up reduced shoulder function against survival, demonstrating resilience in their approach to coping with this adaptive way of living. The survey identified low to moderate effect on the outcomes assessed (n=159), however, node removal significantly impacted certain aspects of quality of life (p<0.05) and disability (p=0.04). Conclusions: Breast reconstruction using the LD had an impact on shoulder function and some ADL, which impacted not only on the women but also family and significant others. Despite the functional implications associated with surgery, findings would suggest that shoulder dysfunction is not their main concern. This work identified that women and their significant other require further information to clarify expectation regarding recovery, highlighting the changing priorities of women throughout their journey from diagnosis into long-term recovery.
- Breast reconstruction
- Musculoskeletal consequences
- Latissimus Dorsi flap reconstruction