Glen Cove Hospital Performs 1st Robotic DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

For the first time on Long Island, surgeons at Glen Cove Hospital were able to perform the deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction surgery using the da Vinci robot, a major step forward in the treatment of women recovering from breast cancer.

Neil Tanna, MD, a noted plastic surgeon who serves vice president of the Katz Women’s Surgical Center at Glen Cove Hospital, said this cutting-edge technique will become the “gold standard” for such procedures. The catalyst for bringing this opportunity to Glen Cove was his patient, Mary Leonardi, who told him that robotic reconstruction was the way she wanted to go.

Knowing of her family’s strong history with cancer, Ms. Leonardi underwent genetic testing in 2007 and received a diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in a predisposition for many types of cancer. “After surviving thyroid cancer and a preventative hysterectomy,” said Ms. Leonardi, “I made the very difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy in January of this year. As it turned out, that surgery revealed the presence of pre-cancerous cells.”

When it came time to consider breast reconstruction surgery, Ms. Leonardi consulted with her surgeon, Dr. Tanna.

“From the beginning, Mary made it very clear that she wanted to have reconstruction using her own stomach tissue (and not implants) through the robotic DIEP flap technique,” said Dr. Tanna. “The robotic DIEP technique is the most cutting-edge approach to breast reconstruction surgery because it allows for the clean removal of a ‘flap’ of complete belly fat tissue – including the vital blood vessels – without doing damage to the abdominal wall. Also, as we saw with Mary, there’s less chance of infection and a quicker rate of recovery.”

Dr. Tanna explained that this robotic procedure had not been done yet at Northwell Health, but he was determined to make it happen. It was then that Dr. Tanna contacted his colleague, Jesse Selber, MD, vice chair, director of clinical research and professor in the department of plastic surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, who pioneered the procedure.

On June 7th, Dr. Selber travelled to Glen Cove Hospital to double-team with Dr. Tanna and explain the robotic technique. Dr. Tanna and Dr. Selber were also assisted by Gainosuke Sugiyama, MD, chair of surgery at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream.

“Doing any surgery for the first time is critical,” said Dr. Selber. “Prior to entering the operating room, we went over many of the basic steps. By the time we walked into the room, we were ready. The key to this type of collaboration – especially for the first time – is to control everything you can and to be ready for the unexpected.”

After an eight-hour surgery and a two-day hospital stay, Ms. Leonardi was able to return home to her husband of 18 years. She is very pleased that Dr. Tanna kept his promise to make her wish come true: To have natural-looking, reconstructed breasts that used her own tissue instead of artificial implants.

“I’m very proud to have been a part of such a collaborative experience,” said Ms. Leonardi. “Making the robotic procedure available to women in the New York area is so important to me. I want all women to have all the choices – an abundance of choices – when facing this difficult surgery. I’m so grateful to Dr. Tanna and the surgical team, and everyone at Glen Cove Hospital, for having the passion and commitment to make this happen.”

To learn more about the Katz Institute for Women’s Health or book an appointment, call (855) 850-KIWH go to:

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