Nipple-areola complex reconstruction techniques: A literature review

Eur J Surg Oncol. 2016 Apr;42(4):441-65. doi: 10.1016/j.ejso.2016.01.003. Epub 2016 Jan 30.


Many techniques for nipple-areola complex (NAC) reconstruction are described. Clarity is required on the currently available options. Since a complete list of all the techniques described until now is not available, a possibly comprehensive literature overview was carried out from 75 papers (years 1946-2015). The local flap was the most frequently described technique for the nipple reconstruction with no significant difference in complications' rate among the various types of techniques. Complications in nipple reconstruction were 46.9% after graft, 7.9% after local flap, and 5.3% in case of flaps with autologous graft/alloplastic/allograft augmentation, while complications in areola reconstruction were 10.1% after graft, and 1.6% after areola tattoo. Flaps appear to be more reliable than grafts in nipple reconstruction, while tattoo is thought to be safer than graft in areola reconstruction. The loss of projection, although considerable (45%-75%), had not significant impact on patients' satisfaction. Due to contraction, overcorrection of 25-50% of the desired result is advisory when adopting local flaps, in order to prevent loss of projection. The use of flaps with autologous graft/alloplastic/allograft augmentation (cartilage, fat, calcium hydroxylapatite, acellular dermal matrix, polymethylmethacrylate, biologic collagen) showed a minor loss of nipple projection but may expose to a relative increased number of postoperative flap necrosis.

Keywords: Local flaps; Nipple-areola reconstruction; Tissue grafts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acellular Dermis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Skin Transplantation / methods*
  • Surgical Flaps*