Nipple-Areola Reconstruction Following Chest-Wall Irradiation for Breast Cancer: Is It Safe?

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Radiation therapy (RT) is considered by some to be a contraindication to nipple-areola reconstruction (NAR) particularly in patients with breast implant reconstruction. In this retrospective chart review, all patients who underwent breast reconstruction with tissue expanders and implants from 1997–2003 were reviewed. A subset of patients with a history of radiation therapy (pre- or postoperative) was identified. Postoperative complications, surgical technique, and the time course of reconstructive procedures were analyzed. Thirteen percent of patients with a history of RT had NAR compared with 36% of similarly reconstructed patients without a history of RT. Reconstruction was accomplished using a variety of local flaps, with an overall complication rate of 25%. Nipple-areola reconstruction after chest-wall irradiation in patients reconstructed with breast implants should be performed in carefully selected patients. Acceptable surgical candidates demonstrate resolution of acute radiation changes, no evidence of late radiation changes, and appropriate thickness of the mastectomy skin flaps.

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