Nipple Reconstruction: Is It Right for Me? (2024)

What happens before nipple reconstruction surgery?

Before a nipple reconstruction procedure, you’ll meet with a plastic surgeon who’ll provide a consultation. During the consultation, your surgeon will:

  • Answer any questions you might have about the procedure.
  • Examine your overall health to make sure you’re a healthy candidate for surgery.
  • Review your goals and expected outcomes from the procedure.
  • Physically examine your breast area and take pictures.

Your plastic surgeon will also schedule the date of surgery, let you know how to prepare for surgery and discuss your expected healing time.

What happens during a surgical procedure?

Your procedure date for nipple reconstruction surgery may be up to four to six months after breast reconstruction surgery. Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare for your surgery during your consultation, which may include taking certain medications or not eating the night before your surgery.

When you arrive at your surgery center, your surgeon will draw on your skin, marking where they’ll make incisions. You’ll most likely be standing for this.

During your procedure, your provider will give you an anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain. You’ll usually be asleep for the procedure, but some procedures only require a local anesthetic to your breast where your surgeon will complete the procedure, if necessary.

The process varies based on what type of surgery your surgeon performs. Your surgeon will make small incisions in your skin to manipulate your skin to take the form and shape of a nipple. They may remove the skin from another part of your body and place it on your breast to form a new nipple.

Surgery can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

What happens before a medical tattoo procedure?

Some plastic surgeons can do medical tattooing. You may choose to visit a tattoo artist who specializes in nipple tattooing. If you’re not undergoing surgery and only want a nipple tattoo, you’ll still meet with either a plastic surgeon who performs medical tattooing or a tattoo artist for a consultation. They’ll learn more about your expected outcomes, which could include the size, shape and color of your tattoo. They may sketch a depiction of how they’ll make the tattoo look on your body and take measurements.

If you have an image of what you’d like your nipple tattoo to look like, bring those images to your consultation to show to your surgeon or artist.

What happens during a tattoo procedure?

For a nipple tattoo procedure, you’ll remove your clothing above the waist. Your surgeon or tattoo artist will clean your skin. They could use a stencil that leaves an ink outline on your skin. They’ll then ask you to look in a mirror to make sure that outline is where you want your nipple tattoo to be. If you’re not satisfied with where the stencil is on your skin, speak up. Your artist or surgeon can easily move the stencil. Once tattooing starts, you won’t be able to make changes and the results are permanent.

You’ll lie with your back on a table and your head on top of a pillow for comfort. During this time, your surgeon or tattoo artist will use a handheld tattooing device that they dip in ink or pigment and then use to draw on your skin with a small needle. This machine makes a buzzing noise and vibrates. You may feel pin pokes or the sensation of scratching during a tattoo. Your provider will use a clean cloth to wipe away excess ink from your skin in between passes of the needle. If you need to take a break, let your surgeon or artist know and they can give you a few moments to relax.

The tattoo can take up to a couple of hours to complete.

What happens after these procedures?

When your nipple reconstruction surgery is complete, your surgeon will close up any incisions with stitches and wrap your skin in bandages. You’ll move into a recovery room after the procedure until your anesthetic wears off.

If you underwent general anesthesia (you were asleep), you’ll need to have someone drive you home from the surgery center. Nipple reconstruction surgery is an outpatient procedure, and you don’t need to stay overnight in a hospital, but some people might.

For a nipple tattoo, your surgeon or artist will wrap your skin in a bandage or plastic wrap to seal in any fluid or ink that leaks out of your tattoo site. They’ll let you know how long you need to keep your bandages on and what creams or ointments are best to help your tattoo heal. Your new tattoo may be itchy, but try your best not to scratch your tattoo. Think of a tattoo as an open wound. It’s normal for your skin to peel after a tattoo, but don’t pick at your flaking skin. Instead, let it naturally fall off.

Nipple Reconstruction: Is It Right for Me? (2024)
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