Many surgeons are under the impression that the blood supply is clearly defined in textbooks. Unfortunately, the majority of textbooks supply inadequate information and illustrations can be misleading in many instances. None of the textbooks describe a segmental pattern of blood supply when in actual fact a basic segmental pattern does exist. The reason for inadequate information is the perpetuation of facts since the work of the pioneers Cooper and Manchot from one textbook to another. A paucity of research studies thereafter and the fact that the results of some of these studies did not find their way into textbooks is another contributing factor.Methods:
The findings of research studies since the descriptions by Cooper and Manchot are analyzed and compared in an effort to find common ground and its clinical implication.Results:
Researchers concurred on the main sources of blood supply; these are internal thoracic, lateral thoracic, anterior intercostal, and acromiothoracic (thoracoacromial) arteries. However, the different research studies showed considerable variation in the branches from the main sources to supply the nipple-areola complex.Conclusions:
Even though the locations of the main sources of blood supply are constant, partial or complete absence of branches from the main sources does occur and therefore the blood supply to the nipple-areola complex is unpredictable. Cognizance of the basic segmental pattern and the variations resulting from embryologic development will be helpful for the surgeon to use or adapt a technique to minimize the risk of nipple necrosis.