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Nipple reconstruction

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After tissue or implant reconstruction, you can choose whether to rebuild your nipple and areola. Reconstructive surgeons can create a nipple and areola that look lifelike, although you will not have sensation.

In general, the nipple is rebuilt using a local flap, a surgical procedure in which the skin of the reconstructed breast is folded to create a nipple mount. Another option is a nipple graft, which involves taking half the nipple from the healthy, remaining breast, and putting it on the reconstructed breast. The areola is reconstructed with a skin graft (from your inner thigh, abdomen or other locations), a tattoo, or both.

Non-surgical options


Non-surgical options are to:

  • Use removable nipples made of polyurethane, a flexible type of plastic
  • Have nipples tattooed onto the breast. The tattoo can be done to look three dimensional, even though it’s not.

The advantage of nipple reconstruction is that it makes the reconstructed breast look more natural. The disadvantages are that it involves more surgery, can cause minor complications, and the nipple is always somewhat erect. The advantages of not having surgical nipple reconstruction are less surgery, fewer risks, and after a bilateral mastectomy, not having to wear a bra.

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Reviewed and updated: August 31, 2015

Reviewed by: Steven Copit, MD , Clara Nan-hi Lee, MD, MPP

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