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Dimensional changes in reconstructed nipples: autologous versus prosthetic breast reconstruction

Chae Eun Yang, Kwang Hyun Park, Dae Hyun Lew, Tai Suk Roh, Dong Won Lee
Annals of Surgical Treatment and Research 2019, 96 (1): 8-13

Purpose: The creation of the nipple-areola complex is the final stage in breast reconstruction and highly affects patient satisfaction. The neo-nipple is well known to shrink over time, particularly in the nipple projection. Currently, no reconstruction technique is clearly superior in terms of nipple size maintenance. We evaluated nipple size changes among several methods of breast mound reconstruction.

Methods: Seventy-eight patients received nipple-areola complex reconstruction secondarily after breast reconstruction. C-V flap nipple reconstructions were performed using a free transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap in 25 cases (TRAM group), a latissimus dorsi (LD) myocutaneous flap in 27 cases (LD group), and an implant in 26 cases (implant group). The circumference and projection of the neo-nipple were measured using a flexible ruler, immediately after reconstruction and average 10 months after surgery.

Results: The overall circumference and projection at the final measurement were 91.43% ± 7.11% and 62.16% ± 21.55%, respectively, of immediate postoperative values. The change in circumference did not significantly differ among the 3 groups. In contrast, the change in projection was significantly worse in implant group compared to that in TRAM and LD groups. In addition, among the patients in implant group, greater inflation was significantly associated with greater decrease in the nipple projection.

Conclusion: Breast mound reconstruction with autologous musculocutaneous flap techniques achieves better long-term maintenance of the neo-nipple projection compared to that achieved with expanded tissue and implantation. Considering the prospective loss of long-term nipple dimension, the preoperative design should be oversized in accordance with its origin in mound reconstruction.

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