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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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State-of-the-Art Surgical Program Also Offers Advanced Options for Female Veterans

November 5, 2010

Plastic surgery staff 

"Our state-of-the-art surgical program clearly demonstrates the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center can and does provide the highest quality medical care for our female Veteran population," said Mimi Leong, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S., Plastic Surgery Section staff surgeon (right) with Gloria Caballero, L.V.N., Plastic Surgery scrub technician (left) and Deborah Larocca, R.N., C.N.O.R., Plastic Surgery Team leader.
PHOTO:  Bobbi Gruner, PAO


NEWS RELEASE - Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, 2002 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030
For more information, Public Affairs Office, 713.794.7349

November 1, 2010

HOUSTON – Surgeons at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently performed a technically advanced breast reconstruction procedure on a young female Veteran with breast cancer who had undergone bilateral mastectomies.

While the DeBakey VA has routinely offered breast reconstruction for post-mastectomy and post-lumpectomy patients for many years, a bilateral free, transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap is a very complex reconstruction procedure involving advanced microsurgical techniques and skills.

"Our state-of-the-art surgical program, and this procedure in particular, clearly demonstrates the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center can and does provide the highest quality medical care to our female Veteran population," said Mimi Leong, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S., Plastic Surgery Section staff surgeon.

The conventional TRAM flap is a tissue flap procedure that uses muscle, fat, and skin from the patient’s abdomen to create a new breast mound after a mastectomy. Depending on the woman’s particular body build, there may be enough tissue in this area to create a new breast. If not, there are other methods of reconstructing a patient’s breast that involve either using other tissue flaps or using implants. 

"Studies suggest patients who have undergone breast reconstruction appear to have higher satisfaction rates than patients who do not," said Leong, who is also an assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

Free tissue transfer, such as the free TRAM flap, requires detaching the tissue from its original location and transplanting it to a different location and reconnecting its blood supply using complex microsurgical techniques.  Unlike the conventional TRAM, the free TRAM flap allows the surgeon to recreate the breast mound using abdominal tissue while sparing the abdominal muscle.

Women make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the Veteran population. In Houston, about 11 percent of Veterans treated at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center are women.

In response to this growing need, the DeBakey VA recently opened a new Women’s Health Center. With its own private entrance from outside the building, the new clinic is 2,800 sq. ft. with seven exam rooms as well as a larger waiting room to accommodate women in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This "One-Stop Shop” for women includes routine primary care, gynecological services, patient education, and preventive medicine.

"The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center constantly strives to open new doors and make innovative surgical alternatives available for all of our Nation’s heroes; male and female alike," said David H. Berger, M.D., M.H.C.M., Operative Care Line executive and professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

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Awarded the Robert W. Carey Circle of Excellence Quality Award in 2007 and re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 120,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Lufkin, Galveston, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost one million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2009. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit