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Nipple and Areola Reconstruction


What you need to know about nipple and areola reconstruction:

Nipple and areola reconstruction is a procedure to rebuild the nipple and areola (darkened area around the nipple). Skin from your breast, or a skin graft, may be used for reconstruction. A skin graft is a portion of healthy skin that is taken from another area of your body. This area of your body is called the donor site. The donor site may be your opposite nipple, thigh, or labia (skin folds around the vagina). A skin substitute from a human or animal may also be used to rebuild the nipple and areola. Human and animal cells are removed from the skin substitute to prevent infection.

How to prepare for nipple and areola reconstruction:

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. Arrange for someone to drive you home after your procedure.

What will happen during nipple and areola reconstruction:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during your procedure. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel any pain.
  • Your healthcare provider will make a small incision in your breast. He or she may use the breast tissue that is already there to create a nipple and areola. If a skin graft will be used, he or she will also make a small incision at the donor site. Skin will be taken from this area. Your healthcare provider will use the skin graft with or without a skin substitute to create a nipple and areola. He or she will close your incisions with stitches and cover them with bandages. Antibacterial ointment and a nipple shield will be placed over your rebuilt nipple and areola. This will help protect the area from injury and infection.

What will happen after nipple and areola reconstruction:

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. When your pain is controlled, you may go home. Your nipple and areola may look larger than your other nipple. This is normal and expected. The nipple will usually decrease in size after you have your stitches removed.

Risks of nipple and areola reconstruction:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Nerves, blood vessels, or muscle may be damaged during the procedure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.

Call your doctor or surgeon if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

Remove your nipple shield in 3 days or as directed. Ask your healthcare provider when you can remove the bandage from the donor site. Carefully wash around the incisions with soap and water. Gently pat the area dry and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Check your incisions every day for redness, swelling, or drainage. Do not put powder or lotions on your incisions.

Wear a supportive bra as directed:

You may be given a surgical bra or asked to wear a sports bra after your surgery. This will help hold your bandages in place and decrease swelling. It may also give your breast support and decrease pain. Ask your healthcare provider when you can wear a regular bra.


Rest as directed. Do not lift anything heavy or do strenuous activities. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.


You may choose to have your nipple and areola tattooed. This may be done without nipple and areola reconstruction, or after you have healed from this procedure. Healing may take 3 to 4 months. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about nipple and areola tattooing.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

You may need to return to have your stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Nipple and Areola Reconstruction (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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