Necrosis of the nipple

Necrosis of the nipple

22nd Aug 2017

One of the complications that can happen when a patient goes through any breast surgery is the necrosis of the nipple. This happens as a result of the decreased or loss of blood supply to the nipples. When this happens, the nipples darken in color and die. Those who are smokers are more at risk for this complication.

The black discoloration of the nipples can be a sign of nipple necrosis. This happens when the tissues of the nipples die due to poor blood supply. A poorly supplied body part will start off with a purplish color until the part eventually dies. When this happens to the nipples, there will also be a lost of sensation.

In some cases, a purplish nipple can happen after a breast surgery, not because of nipple necrosis, but because the nipple is bruised. It is possible that the bruising will not lead to the necrosis of the nipples. When the bruised nipple heals, it will return to its normal color.

On the other hand, there are also some who may experience having purplish nipples due to the lack of blood circulation. The poor blood supply can be caused by the removal of breast tissue during a breast reduction, for example. When there is no alternative circulation that can connect to the nipples and areola, it dies. The purplish color eventually darkens to black. If you suspect that you may have nipple necrosis, it would be best to consult with your surgeon immediately. If there is really necrosis, the surgeons can immediately check if there are still any viable tissues that can be saved.

Unfortunately, if the tissues of the nipples have already died, it can no longer be saved. For this reason, it is extremely important to go to the surgeon immediately if you suspect nipple necrosis, so that they can prevent more tissues from dying. If the whole nipple can’t be saved, a nipple and areolar reconstruction surgery will be done after several months. Even if the nipple seems to be dead, don’t rush into conclusions because there can still be some parts of it that can still be saved once the surgeon has removed all the dead tissue.

Before resolving the nipple necrosis, the surgeon should first focus on addressing any infection that is present. The dead tissue is a great place for bacteria to thrive in, and so antibiotics, orally or topical will be provided so that further damage is avoided. The surgeon will also debride the area to help prevent any further loss of tissue. Healing of the scar is of utmost importance and once it takes place, the reconstruction of the nipple and areola can be started.

The necrosis of the nipple or areola is worsened if you continue smoking and using of products with nicotine weeks before and after the surgery. The patient has to stop smoking so as to prevent the whole nipple from dying. Although the necrosis of the nipples is more common in patients who smoke, it can also happen to those who don’t.


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