Arch Plast Surg.  2020 Mar;47(2):140-145. 10.5999/aps.2019.01130.

Comparison of Harmonic scalpel and monopolar cautery for capsulectomy at the second stage of expander/implant breast reconstruction

  • 1Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Korea University Anam Hospital, Seoul, Korea


Capsular contracture is a common complication of two-stage expander/implant breast reconstruction. To minimize the risk of this complication, capsulectomy is performed using monopolar cautery or ultrasonic surgical instrumentation, the latter of which can be conducted with a Harmonic scalpel. To date, there is disagreement regarding which of the two methods is superior. The purpose of this study was to compare postoperative outcomes between a group of patients who underwent surgery using a Harmonic scalpel and another group treated with monopolar cautery.
A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients who underwent capsulectomy as part of two-stage breast reconstruction between January 2018 and February 2019 and who received at least 1 month of follow-up after surgery. Operative time and postoperative outcomes, including drainage duration, were analyzed.
In total, 36 female patients underwent capsulectomy. The monopolar group consisted of 18 patients and 22 breasts, while the Harmonic scalpel group consisted of 18 patients and 21 breasts. There was no statistically significant difference in demographics between the two groups. The Harmonic scalpel group had a significantly shorter mean drainage duration (6.65 days vs. 7.36 days) and a smaller mean total drainage volume (334.69 mL vs. 433.54 mL) than the monopolar cautery group (P<0.05). No statistically significant difference was observed with regard to seroma or hematoma formation.
The Harmonic scalpel approach for capsulectomy reduced the total drainage volume and drainage duration compared to the monopolar cautery approach. Therefore, this approach could serve as a good alternative to electrocautery.


Breast; Capsules; Ultrasonic vibration; Seroma
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