Areola Reconstruction: Principles and Techniques

Francesco Simonacci1, *, Nicolò Bertozzi1, Marianna Pesce2, Pier Luigi Santi2, Edoardo Raposio1
1 Department of Medicine and Surgery, Plastic Surgery Division, University of Parma, Parma, Italy
2 Department of Surgery and Related Methodologies, Plastic Surgery Section, University of Genova, Genova, Italy

© 2018 Simonacci et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Plastic Surgery Division, Cutaneous, Regenerative, Mininvasive and Plastic Surgery Unit, Parma University and Maggiore Hospital, Via Gramsci 14, 43126 Parma, Italy; Tel: 39/3293350521; E-mail:


At the end of breast reconstruction, the creation of a natural-appearing areola is very important for patient satisfaction with the surgical result. The challenging aspects of achieving this include matching the color and texture as well as the size, shape, position, and projection of a normal areola, particularly in unilateral cases. The most common techniques that have been used to create a naturalistic nipple–areola complex have included skin grafting, tattooing, or a combination of both. Surgeons are finding that tattooing, the intradermal electric deposition of pigments, can be used to closely approximate natural areola pigmentation. Using the appropriate technique is essential as it is known that tattoo pigment fades over time and appears somewhat different after intradermal applied. Indeed, physicians’ experience and color selection greatly affect the aesthetic outcome. Skin grafting has long been used in nipple–areola reconstruction, and skin donor sites such as retro- auricular, inner thigh, labia minora and contralateral areola have been employed. The choice of donor site depends on different factors, including the presence of a healthy contralateral areola and the skin tone of the patient. In some cases, tattooing may be used in conjunction with grafting. Regardless of areolar reconstructive technique, medical pigmentation is becoming a preferred method of producing a more realistic-appearing breast, although periodic touch-ups may be required for optimal results.

Keywords: Areola reconstruction, Breast reconstruction, Areola tattooing, Areola grafting, Aesthetic surgery, Reconstructive surgery.