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Impact of Surgical Techniques, Biomaterials, and Patient Variables on Rate of Nipple Necrosis after Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

Gould, Daniel J. Ph.D.; Hunt, Kelly K. M.D.; Liu, Jun M.D.; Kuerer, Henry M. M.D., Ph.D.; Crosby, Melissa A. M.D.; Babiera, Gildy M.D.; Kronowitz, Steven J. M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: September 2013 - Volume 132 - Issue 3 - p 330e–338e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31829ace49
Breast: Original Articles

Background: Nipple-sparing mastectomy is appropriate for selected patients with early-stage breast cancer or high breast cancer risk. However, the postoperative rate of nipple necrosis is relatively high (10 to 30 percent). This study analyzed the impact of clinicopathologic and surgical variables on partial and total nipple necrosis rates after nipple-sparing mastectomy and compared overall complication rates between nipple-sparing and skin-sparing mastectomy.

Methods: The study included 233 cases; 113 had nipple-sparing mastectomy and immediate breast reconstruction and 120 were matched cases of skin-sparing mastectomy and immediate reconstruction performed at the authors’ institution from September of 2003 through May of 2011.

Results: The overall complication rate was 28 percent for nipple-sparing mastectomy and 27 percent for skin-sparing mastectomy (p > 0.99). In patients who did not have axillary surgery (those undergoing risk-reducing mastectomy), the overall rate was significantly higher in the nipple-sparing group (26 percent versus 9 percent; p = 0.06). However, in patients who had axillary surgery (either sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary lymphadenectomy), the rate did not differ between the two groups. For nipple-sparing mastectomy, the overall incidence of any (partial or total) nipple necrosis was 20 percent. Only two cases (2 percent) had total necrosis. Larger breasts (C cup or larger) were associated with a higher rate of nipple necrosis (p = 0.003).

Conclusions: The authors found no significant difference in the overall incidence of complications in patients who had nipple-sparing mastectomy or skin-sparing mastectomy. Exclusion of axillary lymphatic surgery in nipple-sparing mastectomy patients did not decrease the incidence of complications.


Houston, Texas

From the Departments of Plastic Surgery and Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Received for publication November 21, 2012; accepted March 19, 2013.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

Steven J. Kronowitz, M.D., Department of Plastic Surgery, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Box 443, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77030,

©2013American Society of Plastic Surgeons