Nipple Reconstruction After Autologous or Expander Breast Reconstruction: A Multimodal and 3-Dimensional Analysis

Aesthet Surg J. 2017 Feb;37(2):179-187. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjw181. Epub 2016 Dec 16.


Background: Little is known about the influence of the underlying tissue as donor for nipple-areola complex (NAC) reconstruction. Also, there is a complete lack of knowledge about the fate of nipple volume.

Objectives: The goal of this retrospective, single-institution study was to analyze a case series after nipple reconstruction using a multimodal evaluation including 3-dimensional (3D) laser scanner analyses.

Methods: Unilateral mastectomy patients after either expander-based or autologous breast reconstruction using the skate flap were included. NAC caliper measurement of nipple and areola size was performed. 3D laser scanner analysis (Minolta Vivid 900) was used to calculate nipple volume, measurement of nipple, and areolar projection and diameter. Sensitivity was evaluated using the Semmes Weinstein test and patient satisfaction by a visual analog scale (VAS 1-10).

Results: A total of 10 patients were included in the expander group and 12 patients were included in the flap group. After a median follow-up period of 32 months in the expander group and 34 months in the flap group, non-contact 3D laser surface scanning revealed a difference in projection of 55 to 60% compared to the contralateral side. The contraction in all 3 dimensions led to a dramatic difference in nipple volume with 12 ± 8% (flap reconstructions) and 12 ± 7% (expander reconstructions). Sensitivity of the areola showed better values after expander-based reconstruction. Despite the significant discrepancy in nipple volume and projection as well as areolar diameter, overall patient satisfaction was acceptable (VAS 4.1 ± 3.5).

Conclusions: Volume assessment revealed a massive asymmetry to the intact nipple but not between expander and flap reconstructions. Although asymmetry of the areola and nipple remains, patient satisfaction is acceptable. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE 4.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anatomic Landmarks
  • Esthetics
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Mammaplasty / adverse effects
  • Mammaplasty / instrumentation
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Mastectomy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods*
  • Nipples / anatomy & histology
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Photography
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Expansion / adverse effects
  • Tissue Expansion / instrumentation
  • Tissue Expansion / methods*
  • Tissue Expansion Devices
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Treatment Outcome