Background: Postoperative nipple malposition can be an aesthetically devastating problem for patients and a formidable challenge for surgeons. The authors’ aim was to identify the common antecedent events leading to high-riding nipples, provide a classification system for these problems, and discuss management.
Methods: A retrospective review of medical records was conducted for patients who presented to the senior surgeon (S.L.S.) for management of a postoperative, excessively high nipple-areola complex over an 8-year period from January of 2004 to March of 2012. Demographic information, medical histories, operative details, and office records were reviewed for each patient. The high nipple-areola complex was classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the distance from the superior breast border to the top of the nipple-areola complex in relation to the vertical breast height.
Results: Twenty-five women met study criteria, with 41 breasts determined to have an excessively high nipple-areola complex. The average patient was aged 44.3 years and had undergone 2.5 ± 1.3 operations before the development of a notably high nipple-areola complex, including nipple-sparing mastectomy (32 percent), augmentation/mastopexy (29 percent), augmentation (27 percent), mastopexy (10 percent), and skin-sparing mastectomy with nipple reconstruction (2 percent). Patients were classified as having mild (27 percent), moderate (56 percent), or severe (17 percent) nipple-areola complex displacement; surgical correction was attempted in 54 percent of cases.
Conclusions: A high-riding nipple-areola complex can develop following aesthetic or reconstructive surgery. Although many patients may not need or choose correction, there are surgical options that may be helpful in improving the nipple-areola complex position.