Using Tattoo Artists in Breast Reconstructive Surgery
- 14 May 2014
- Dr. Nidal (Nick) Masri
Breast reconstruction surgery is done to restore one or both breast after a situation that led to the removal of the breast tissue, usually breast cancer. The surgery is done in order to regain the most realistic breast after a mastectomy. The surgeon’s goal is the achievement the desired size, shape, and appearance
of the natural breast. The nipple can be quite challenging and has previously been done with very simple tattooing. Surgeon’s, in that past, would use two colors of ink and tattoo a darker colored circle inside a lighter colored circle. This would give the rudimentary approximation of a nipple. However, real tattoo artists are now being called up to take on the task of recreating nipples for breast reconstructive surgeries.
Previously, nipple-areola complex tattooing was used for patients who did not want to have a surgical procedure to fix the damage that the reconstruction or radiation treatment had done to their nipples. But now, plastic surgeons are discovering there is a demand for what these tattoo artists do. So, they are beginning to incorporate the artistic talents of tattooing into their breast reconstructive surgeries.
The artists use a three dimensional technique as opposed to the previously used two dimensional technique. With the implementation of 3D nipples, the artist creates the illusion of a protruding nipple using “shadowing”. Traditionally, surgeons would only use two colors to give the effect of a nipple, but the artists are much more sophisticated. Their work is done by using a wide range of color, needle size, time, and skill. These results cannot be achieved by a plastic surgeon.
The work of the artists can be very tedious and detailed. They will even get down to the fine details of the Montgomery glands that lie in the surrounding tissue of the nipple. Some surgeons have started to refer their patients to tattoo artists to have their nipple-areola complex tattooing done. The surgeons understand that patient satisfaction and safety are the priority. They say, “While referring patients to tattoo artists for 3D NAC reconstruction may take some business away from a surgeon’s practice, it is our obligation to offer patients the best results possible,”
Surgeons recognize that our patients are the number one priority, and acceptance of their new breast, and nipple is far more important than ego or money.
Keeping patients comfortable is also a priority. Instead of having to go to a tattoo parlor to have your nipple reconstruction, many tattoo artists are making trips to the medical facilities to do their work.
The cost of having nipple-areola complex tattooing varies based on your location and the artist’s experience and personal rates. However, insurance will sometimes at least partially cover the cost.
Tattooing has a future in the reconstructive surgery world. There are several situations in reconstructive surgery where clients could benefit from having a tattoo artist involved in their procedure. Facial reconstructive surgery could use tattooing for lips and eye brows. Hand reconstructive surgery could use tattooing to restore nails. The partnership between plastic surgery and tattoo artistry has really just begun.