BACKGROUND: The latissimus dorsi muscle is responsible for the adduction, extension, and internal rotation of the humerus, and has a crucial role in the stability of the glenohumeral joint. Some authors believe that the removal of this muscle has a minimal effect on shoulder morbidity, as the residual shoulder muscles would compensate for its absence; in contrast, other authors have noted weakness, loss of movement ability, pain, and functional change. Most studies, however, were not limited to patients who undergo breast surgery and were retrospective in nature. The measurement modalities used were based on subjective methods and were not standardized; furthermore, there is little information on their reliability. Few studies compared the results with preoperative measurements. Therefore, an objective study requires the prospective assessment of patients who undergo late breast reconstruction with a latissimus dorsi musculocutaneous flap, by using the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ).
METHOD: Between September 2010 and April 2012, 30 patients were enrolled in the study. They answered the HAQ at preoperative consultations and postoperatively at 3, 6, and 12 months.
RESULTS: A statistically significant difference was found between the stages of assessment, with a deterioration of postoperative functional capacity at 3 months after surgery, which returned to preoperative levels after 6 months and progressively improved until 12 months after surgery.
CONCLUSIONS: This study offers scientific evidence suggesting that breast reconstruction surgery with a latissimus dorsi musculocutaneous flap does not worsen the functional capacity of patients at 12 months after surgery.
Keywords: Mammaplasty. Latissimus dorsi muscle. Mastectomy. Questionnaires. Quality of life. Functional capacity. Surgical flaps.