Background Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women and is responsible for the highest number of cancer-related deaths. Approximately 40% of the patients with breast cancer will undergo a mastectomy. Breast amputation is a lifesaving but mutilating procedure. Therefore a good quality of life and a good cosmetic outcome is mandatory after breast cancer treatment. Reconstructive breast surgery aims to recreate a natural looking breast that is warm, soft and feels natural. The chosen reconstruction technique depends on the physiognomy of the patient, technical skills of the surgeon and most important the expectations of the patient. Results The idea of ‘like-by-like’ replacement refers to reconstruction of a natural-looking, warm, soft and ptotic breast that matches the contralateral side. Autologous breast-reconstruction matches these expectations. Autologous breast reconstructions with free flaps evolved from prolonged and laborious procedures with only limited free flaps available, to routine surgeries with a widespread availability of flaps to use. The first publication of free tissue transfer for breast reconstruction was in 1976 by Fujino. Two years later Holmström was the first to use the abdominal pannus for breast reconstruction. Over the next four decades multiple free flaps have been described. The possible options for donor site are the abdomen, the gluteal region, the thigh and the lower back. During this evolution the reduction of donor site morbidity became more important. Conclusion Present article gives an overview of the evolution of free tissue transfer in breast reconstruction, highlighting the most important milestones.

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