Breast Reconstruction National Trends and Healthcare Implications


Address correspondence reprint requests to: Catherine Curtin, MD, 770 Welch Road, Suite 400, Stanford, CA 94305, USA, or e-mail:


Breast reconstruction improves quality-of-life of breast cancer patients. Different reconstructive options exist, yet commentary in the plastic surgery literature suggests that financial constraints are limiting access to autologous reconstruction (AR). This study follows national trends in breast reconstruction and identifies factors associated with reconstructive choices. Data were obtained from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 1998 to 2008. Patients were categorized as having either implant or ARs. Bivariate and multivariate regression analysis identified variables associated with receiving implants versus AR. Physician fee schedules were analyzed using national average Medicare physician reimbursement rates. From 1998 to 2008, 324,134 breast reconstructions were performed. Reconstructions increased 4% per year. The proportion of implant reconstructions increased 11% per year, whereasARs decreased 5% per year (p < 0.05). Our model showed that the odds of having implant-based versus AR were significantly associated with age, disease severity, payer type, hospital teaching status, and year of surgery. Year of surgery was the strongest predictor of implant reconstruction; patients receiving breast reconstructive surgery in 2009 were three times more likely to have implant breast reconstructive surgery compared with similar patients in 2002. Medicare reimbursement steadily declined for AR over a similar time frame. From 1998 to 2008, autologous breast reconstruction has significantly declined, parallel to a decrease in physician reimbursement. Our data found no significant change in patient characteristics supporting the lack of choice of AR. Further research is warranted to better understand this shift to implant reconstruction and to ensure future access of these complex reconstructive procedures.