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Is immediate breast reconstruction safe in women over 70? An analysis of the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database



The safety of immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) in older women is largely unknown. This study aimed to determine the 30-day postoperative complication rates following IBR (implant-based or autologous) in older women (≥ 70 years) with breast cancer and to compare them to younger women (18–69 years).


The National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database was used to identify women with in situ or invasive breast cancer who underwent IBR (2005–2016). Outcomes included 30-day postoperative morbidity and mortality, which were compared across age groups stratified by type of reconstruction.


Of 28,850 women who underwent implant-based and 9123 who underwent autologous reconstruction, older women comprised 6.5% and 5.7% of the sample, respectively. Compared to younger women, older women had more comorbidities, shorter operative times, and longer length of hospital stay. In the implant-based reconstruction group, the 30-day morbidity rate was significantly higher in older women (7.5% vs 5.3%, p < 0.0001) due to higher rates of infectious, pulmonary, and venous thromboembolic events. Wound morbidity and prosthesis failure occurred equally among age groups. In the autologous reconstruction group, there was no statistically significant difference in the 30-day morbidity rates (older 9.5% vs younger 11.6%, p = 0.15). Both wound morbidity and flap failure rates were similar between the two age groups. For both reconstruction techniques, mortality within 30 days of breast surgery was rare.


Immediate breast reconstruction is safe in older women. These data support the notion that surgeons should discuss IBR as a safe and integral part of cancer treatment in well-selected older women.

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Fig. 1



American Society of Anesthesiology


Body mass index


Congestive heart failure


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Current procedural terminology


Ductal carcinoma in situ


Diabetes mellitus


Immediate breast reconstruction


International Classification of Diseases Ninth Revision


Lymph node


National Surgical Quality Improvement Program


Preoperative Assessment of Cancer in the Elderly


Percutaneous coronary intervention


Participant user data file


Surgical site infection


Surgical Risk Preoperative Assessment System


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Correspondence to Tulin D. Cil.

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Angarita, F.A., Dossa, F., Zuckerman, J. et al. Is immediate breast reconstruction safe in women over 70? An analysis of the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database. Breast Cancer Res Treat 177, 215–224 (2019).

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  • Aged
  • Breast neoplasm
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Postoperative outcomes