Background: Despite the improved appearance associated with skin-sparing mastectomy, removal of the nipple-areola complex has a negative impact on the patient. Still, nipple-areola complex-sparing mastectomy results in preservation of a substantial amount of mammary tissue at risk. This may be prevented by preservation of the nipple-areola complex as a graft that is temporarily banked (e.g., in the groin region).
Methods: Ninety-seven nipple-areola complexes were banked as part of preventive (n = 62) or therapeutic (n = 35) skin-sparing mastectomies in 61 women with a median age of 41 years (range, 27 to 59 years) and a minimum follow-up of 2 years. The areola was harvested as a full-thickness skin graft with the nipple attached as a composite graft. In oncologic cases, the nipple-areola complexes were banked only after frozen section clearance.
Results: Seventy-five nipple-areola complexes were replanted onto the reconstructed mammary mound after 10 months (range, 3 to 26 months). Repeated graft take was moderate to good in 73 of these 75 nipple-areola complexes. The projection of the nipple and pigmentation of the areola were moderate to good in 45 and 74 of the 75 repeatedly transplanted grafts, respectively.
Conclusions: In skin-sparing mastectomy, maximum oncologically safe conservation of autologous mammary structures can be realized by means of temporary banking of the nipple-areola complex. Even though such banking may not be successful in all women, it proved to be satisfactory in most.