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Cryopreserved autologous nipple-areola complex transfer to the reconstructed breast.

If a patient's nipple-areola complex is available for grafting after mastectomy, it is the best material to use for nipple-areola reconstruction. The authors performed delayed autologous nipple-areola complex transfer to reconstructed breasts in 10 patients (mean age, 47 years; range, 40 to 53 years). The nipple-areola complex was cryopreserved with a programmed freezer after mastectomy. Histological examination of the tissue surrounding the nipple and areola eliminated the possibility of cancer invasion. At the time of transfer, the cryopreserved nipple-areola complex was thawed in 37 degrees C water and grafted on a projection made by a denuded dermal flap on the reconstructed breast. Each patient underwent immediate breast reconstruction using an innervated pedicled transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap. The patients' postoperative courses were uneventful. The timing of transfer ranged from 3 months to 1 year (mean, 5.8 months) after breast reconstruction. Nipple projection was made by the "four" dermal flap in five cases, a round dermal flap in three cases, a double dermal flap in one case, and a denuded skate flap in one case. The follow-up period ranged from 5 to 36 months (mean, 21.8 months). All grafts were adapted. The final evaluation of nipple-areola complex adaptation was good in four cases, fair in four cases, and poor in two cases. Histological examination of the hematoxylin and eosin stains showed no remarkable destruction of the skin of the nipple and areola, and electron microscopic examination of the areola skin revealed no significant change. However, electron microscopic examination of the nipple skin showed serious damage to skin components, including elongation of the desmosome, widening of the intercellular space at the prickle cell and basal layers, and shrinking of prickle and basal cells. Although further development of the freezing process and cryopreservation technique is needed to prevent depigmentation of the nipple and areola, cryopreserved nipple-areola complex transfer to a reconstructed breast could be an alternative method of nipple-areola reconstruction.

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