Historically, nipple-areola complex reconstruction has been considered a secondary procedure to the more important breast mound reconstruction. To optimize positioning of the nipple, surgeons generally recommend waiting until complete settling of the reconstructed breast before performing nipple reconstruction. However, when nipple reconstruction is delayed for months to years, final reconstruction is often never completed, as patients often opt to minimize their exposure to further surgical procedures. Most recently, some have advocated immediate nipple reconstruction in free TRAM flap reconstructions to minimize operative procedures and to achieve earlier completion of the breast reconstruction.
Nipple reconstruction techniques have evolved significantly over the years. From simple tattooing to the more technologically advanced, although rarely available, tissue engineering. Dr.Fisher uses techniques, which provide long-lasting, satisfactory reconstruction with minimal morbidity. While not recommended in breast augmentation, this procedure is inevitable in certain types of reconstructive surgery. (viz. our previous article)
Nipple-areola reconstruction represents the completion of the breast restorative process and has significant psychological implications for women who undergo mastectomy. Nipple size, position, projection, and color are determining factors in the aesthetic symmetry of the reconstruction, qualifying an otherwise nondescript flesh mound as the new breast. Complete nipple-areola reconstruction with tattoo can visually draw attention away from the scars on the reconstructed breast mound. In addition, autologous flap breast reconstruction following skin-sparing mastectomy can usually be designed so that the entire flap skin paddle, along with the scar, is tattooed as an areola.
The benefit of nipple-areola reconstruction is supported by the findings of a retrospective psychological survey comparing the level of satisfaction of women who underwent breast reconstruction with or without nipple-areola reconstruction; a highly significant correlation was seen between level of satisfaction and presence of the nipple-areola complex. Artists and anatomists consider the nipple-areola complex an essential and defining component of the breast aesthetic unit, and the physical characteristics of the nipple gain importance as the breast mound decreases in size. Reconstruction of position, size, shape, and color of the native nipple-areola complex currently are attainable goals; functional restoration of erectile ability and erogenous sensation can be restored by Dr.Fisher.