Does the Sequence of Tattooing and Nipple Reconstruction Affect Nipple Projection?

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Abstract

Background

In nipple reconstruction, the maintenance of adequate projection is one of the most important and challenging aspects. However, no reports have evaluated whether tattooing after nipple reconstruction affects nipple projection. This study aimed to test our hypothesis that tattooing after reconstruction adversely affects nipple projection.

Method

Between September 2001 and July 2009, 384 nipples were reconstructed using the modified top hat technique after breast reconstruction with a transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous flap. Of these, 320 were reconstructed before tattooing, and 64 were reconstructed after tattooing. Projection at 6 months and 1 year was compared with that measured immediately after the operation, and projection was compared between the nipples reconstructed after tattooing and those reconstructed before tattooing.

Results

After 6 months, the mean loss of projection was 52.5% in the tattoo-after group and 55.1% in the tattoo-before group. After 1 year, it was 59.2% in the tattoo-after group and 58.6% in the tattoo-before group. There were no significant differences between the groups regarding the sequence of the procedures. The additional tattoo and retattoo rate was 20% in the tattoo-before group and 1% in the tattoo-after group.

Conclusions

These findings showed that the sequence of nipple reconstruction and tattooing had no significant effect on the projection of the reconstructed nipple. It is easier to tattoo homogeneously before nipple reconstruction because of the flat surface but more difficult to make a smooth areolar peripheral margin and circular areolar shape when reconstructing the nipple. The sequence of tattooing and nipple reconstruction can be determined according to esthetic and clinical considerations.

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