Could a Tight Dressing After a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Cause Decreased Blood Flow/necrosis? (photo)

I had a "nipple sparing" bilateral mastectomy with expander placement due to + BRCA 1 genetic test. The Dr. "on call" (not my surgeon) ordered a "light compression wrap" for me due to a leaky drain. I was wrapped VERY tightly from about 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. When my surgeon came in the next morning he immediately had the wrap removed. Within 2 days my nipples and areolas turned black and had to be removed. 5 weeks later I lost one expander due to infection. Could the tight wrap be the culprit?

Doctor Answers 6

Tight Dressings After Nipple Sparing Mastectomy

It is nearly impossible to tell whether or not the tight dressing contributed to the necrosis of your nipple/areola, as the viability of the nipple and areola is always quite finicky after nipple sparing mastectomies, even in the hands of very experienced general and plastic surgeons. I have had patients who had partial necrosis of a nipple who were not even wrapped in a dressing after surgery, so it can definitely happen in the absence of external compression, and is a known complication of nipple sparing or skin sparing mastectomies. I am very sorry to hear this happend to you, but not all is lost, even with the removal of your expander. Give your body a little time to heal - you can still definitely have a very good reconstruction after your skin has some time to recover. 

Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Cause for necrosis after nipple-sparing mastectomy

The greatest risk for compromised blood flow following nipple-sparing mastectomy will primarily be how thin the mastectomy skin/nipple was made and where the incisions were made.  Because vessels through the breast tissue are no longer present after mastectomy, the nipple has to get blood flow from a vascular network in the skin/subcutaneous tissue.  This comes from the edges of the mastectomy borders.  Cutting the source (such as perforators from the internal mammary on the middle border) or cutting off their route (such as cutting around the nipple) increases risk for necrosis. 

Robert Ferguson, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Loss of nipples after nipple sparing mastectomy/reconstruction

I'm sorry to hear of your predicament and what you are going through.  Without knowing how healthy your nipples were after the procedure, any comment I make is purely speculation.  If your nipples were healthy (really healthy) and then you had the wrap put on, the wrap would certainly be implicated in your outcome.  Wraps can be done in many different ways so the technique of the wrap also matters.  If your nipples were compromised following surgery, the wrap may have still contributed to your outcome but its more likely the procedure was the cause rather than the wrap.  Nipple loss is a known risk of nipple sparing procedures or any procedure that involves moving the nipple complex.

Curtis Wong, MD
Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Could a Tight Dressing After a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Cause Decreased Blood Flow/necrosis?

Possible but unlikely. The number 1 issue would be techniques used in the sparing operation. The compromise might have been in the thinness of the N/A flaps causing decreased blood supply or venous engorging or both. 

Darryl J. Blinski, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 174 reviews

Nipple sparing mastectomies

Nipple sparing mastectomies  have a certain percent that will have partial or full loss of the nipple areola complex beause of the inherent loss of blood supply due to the mastectomy.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Tissue necrosis following a breast sparring mastectomy

Just a very unfortunate set of circumstances and just do not have enough information to give you an educated guess.  With any nipple sparring mastectomy there can be a compromise of the circulation to this area.  There are many things that could have caused the problem.  Usually there is more than one issue that leads to such a problem.   

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.