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Nipple and Areola Reconstruction

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I 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 do I 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.