Best Doctors: Frank J. DellaCroce and Scott Sullivan

Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction

GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH

MY TOUGHEST CASE

Corrective “Redo” Breast Reconstruction

Having breast cancer is difficult, as is having a mastectomy. After undergoing such an emotionally and physically arduous experience, many women confront the tertiary challenge of breast reconstruction, and all too often, correcting a failed breast reconstruction. The life’s work of doctors DellaCroce and Sullivan is to reduce the frequency of this heartbreaking scenario.

Unfortunately, approximately 30 percent of the doctors’ practice involves corrective breast reconstruction to improve the poor outcome of a prior reconstruction attempt. These are the doctors’ toughest cases. Women who have had a mastectomy in the past and have undergone attempted reconstruction that failed or resulted in a poor outcome, including scarring, deformation or implant complications, seek out doctors DellaCroce and Sullivan for their expertise and innovative techniques. “They end up on our doorstep looking for a solution, and our charge for those women is not only to correct the disfigurement but also to try to create a beautiful breast at the end of our time with them,” says DellaCroce.

To prevent “redo” reconstruction and multiple surgeries, the doctors are active in raising awareness about the availability of immediate reconstruction, as many patients are unaware that that is an option.

Further, the doctors try to raise awareness of patients’ rights concerning insurance coverage of mastectomy and related surgeries. “If you have benefits that cover mastectomy, you have benefits that cover reconstruction,” explains DellaCroce. Although patients are often unaware of their insurers’ obligation to cover all phases and types of breast reconstruction, DellaCroce emphasizes that “reconstruction isn’t a vain endeavor; mastectomy is an injury to the body,” and, if chosen, reconstruction is truly an integral part of the breast cancer treatment process.

Together, doctors DellaCroce and Sullivan have pioneered groundbreaking methods of breast reconstruction and in doing so have increased options available to women seeking the procedure. These include the use of one’s own tissue from the stomach and hip as material for recreation of a natural breast. Using sophisticated microsurgical techniques, the surgeon transplants fat from other areas of the body and reconnects the blood vessels to those in and around the breast. Further, a technique known as The Body Lift flap recreates a new breast, while also offering the benefit of a tummy tuck, a narrowing of the waist and a buttocks lift as a complement to the collection of fat that’s used to recreate the new breasts. Another innovative technique the doctors’ efforts helped pioneer is known as the Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy, which preserves the breast skin and nipple area during a mastectomy so the breast envelope may be filled with tissue from the abdomen or buttocks. The result of these advanced surgical techniques is a more natural looking breast.

The doctors’ ability to preserve as much of the breast as possible isn’t only cosmetic but life saving. For example, about 10 percent of the doctors’ cases involve surgeries prompted by positive test results for the rare breast cancer gene (BRCA), such as that undergone by celebrity Angelina Jolie. Women who test positive for the BRCA gene must make a difficult decision; they could forego surgery in hopes of never developing breast cancer, or they can take control and undergo surgery. Techniques developed by doctors DellaCroce and Sullivan make this choice slightly less daunting. DellaCroce believes that without the availability of such reconstructive procedures, fewer young, healthy women would elect to undergo a preemptive mastectomy, despite their genetic predisposition to breast cancer. As DellaCroce says, “Undergoing surgery is still difficult, but it makes it a little better to know you can come out of surgery and still look like yourself with a whole and beautiful surgical outcome. The more educated people are, the more encouraged they become to be proactive.”


Frank J. DellaCroce, MD, FACS
Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and St. Charles Surgical Hospital
In practice 12 years
Louisiana State University Health Science Center – 1994
Native of Monroe

Scott Sullivan, MD, FACS
Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and St. Charles Surgical Hospital
In practice 12 years
Louisiana State University Health Science Center – 1991
Native of New Orleans

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Reader Comments:
Aug 2, 2013 10:36 am
 Posted by  kkritzman2011

I had inflammatory breast cancer back in 2008. I had both breast removed. Only had it in one breast, but I was a stage 4 when they removed them. They said my risk for it too come back in the other one was very possible. So I had them both removed. I heard about this kind of surgery, but it was out of the country. So I'm very pleased to see it is finely in our states!!

Aug 5, 2013 01:50 am
 Posted by  Sandy Keller

I traveled from Los Angeles to seek the care of Dr. DellaCroce after a botched result from a surgeon here at home. I arrived in NOLA with complications and an ugly cosmetic outcome. Dr. D patiently and meticulously repaired all of the issues during several surgeries--he allowed me to indulge myself and get as close to my idea of perfection as I wanted to. When I look at photos taken after my reconstruction with my original doctor and compare them to my result today, the improvement is absolutely remarkable. Unfortunately, my outcome is not as good as it would have been if I had started off in NOLA.

My cancer was stage I and the only treatment option that was given to me was lumpectomy and radiation. I am so thankful that I did research and found that I could choose mastectomy and avoid radiation. My surgery was skin-sparing with immediate DIEP reconstruction, with fat taken from my abdomen to re-stuff the breast skin. Any woman diagnosed with breast cancer needs to fully understand all of her options before deciding on treatment, and make sure that she seeks out the very best doctors for each part of treatment. My original surgeon was highly recommended, but wasn't doing enough DIEP procedures to excel at it. One flap partially died, plus I had other complications.

Drs. DellaCroce and Sullivan obtain such gorgeous results that in many cases, it is difficult to tell that their patients have had mastectomies. My trips to NOLA for my surgeries went smoothly, and I was treated like royalty every time I was there. It's worth traveling to obtain the best in medical care, and these two doctors are THE BEST. Don't settle for anything else because you have to live with your body every day after your surgery, and you don't want to look in the mirror and have any regrets! They have results photos on their site at www.breastcenter.com and scores of happy patients around the globe who are willing to do "show and tell" for women in the decision-making stage.

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