Our breast and plastic surgeons work hard to spare nipples during mastectomies and reconstruction surgeries. We make sure nipple preservation will be safe. We have advanced ways to save the nipple in breasts of different shapes and sizes.
However, if your nipple cannot be spared, our surgeons are skilled in making your new breast look natural and attractive. Nipple reconstruction is often the last step in breast reconstruction.
Nipple reconstruction usually includes recreating the nipple (the part that protrudes out) and the areola (the dark pigmented area around the nipple). We can use surgical reconstruction as well as tattooing to create a nipple and areola that match your other nipple and areola.
Nipple and Areola Tattooing
You can use nipple and areola tattooing to add color to your nipple flap or graft. You can also use it to make a nipple. Thanks to the latest 3-D tattooing techniques, we have begun to suggest tattooing by itself as a way to create a nipple and areola. This technique provides many benefits:
- We do not remove any skin, so your reconstructed breasts keep their smooth shape.
- With a double mastectomy, 3-D tattoos can create a more symmetrical result.
- A trained medical professional can offer 3-D tattooing as an outpatient procedure. That means you don’t have to spend the night in the hospital.
- A local anesthetic is available. But it’s not always needed.
- In most cases, insurance covers the outpatient procedure, in full or partially.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can I have a nipple reconstruction procedure? Nipple reconstruction is separate from your implant or flap breast reconstruction surgery. We can perform it after your implant or flap breast reconstruction surgery is complete, once the two breasts are as symmetric as possible. That means the breasts should be similar in size, shape and location on the chest. We perform nipple reconstruction only if you ask for it, usually three to six months after the first stage of breast reconstruction.
How will my surgeon create the new nipple and areola? Surgeons have several options. They can use a grafted nipple reconstruction to take skin from an easily hidden site and attach it to the breast. They can also use flap nipple reconstruction. In this procedure, the surgeon uses skin already on the breast to cut and sew into the shape of a nipple. This keeps the tissue connected to its blood supply, which reduces the risk of poor or failed healing.
What is recovery like? Nipple repair is an outpatient procedure, and you leave on the same day that you receive the surgery. You will likely wear a dressing for the days following the surgery to contain the swelling. The recovery time is relatively quick for a cosmetic surgery, and you are able to return to daily activities within two to three days of the procedure.
Will I still be able to breastfeed? Nipple repair surgery should not interfere with breastfeeding. If the nipple surgery was done in conjunction with breast reduction, the ability to breastfeed is dependent on the amount of tissue removed. You may want to wait until you are finished breastfeeding children to complete this surgery. If that is not an option, the more time that elapses between the surgery and the start of breastfeeding, the better.