An Analysis of Complication Risk Factors in 641 Nipple Reconstructions

Breast J. 2016 Jul;22(4):379-83. doi: 10.1111/tbj.12591. Epub 2016 Apr 1.


Nipple-areola reconstruction represents the completion of the breast restorative process and is associated with significant positive psychological implications. While factors such as medical comorbidities, smoking status, and radiation therapy have been shown to be associated with an increase in complications following breast reconstruction, their impact on nipple reconstruction remains largely unaddressed in the literature. An IRB-approved, retrospective review of 472 patients who underwent nipple reconstruction at Wake Forest University over a 15-year period was completed. Demographic and surgical characteristics were assessed including age, body mass index, medical comorbidities, smoking status, need for radiation, breast reconstruction type, and nipple flap used. Four hundred and seventy-two patients with 641 nipple reconstructions were included with an average follow-up of 56.5 months. Radiation prior to nipple reconstruction was required in 146 breasts (22.8%). Overall, postoperative nipple projection problems occurred in 7.6% of reconstructions with a 4.1% rate of other complications, including nipple necrosis, tip loss, wound infection and wound breakdown. Implant-based reconstruction and radiation were associated with significantly more nipple projection problems (p = 0.009 and 0.05, respectively). Higher rates of complications and nipple projection problems were seen with skate flap reconstruction compared to a star flap (p = 0.046 and 0.001, respectively). Implant-based breast reconstruction and radiotherapy are associated with higher rates of nipple reconstruction problems. Identification of patient and surgical variables associated with increased risk of poor outcomes preoperatively could help in patient counseling and selection of the most appropriate method of breast and nipple reconstruction.

Keywords: autologous breast reconstruction; breast radiation; breast reconstruction; nipple reconstruction; nipple-areola complex; tissue expander reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Implantation / adverse effects
  • Breast Implantation / methods
  • Breast Implants
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / adverse effects*
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Mammaplasty / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Young Adult