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An areola incision is a cut made by a surgeon just on the outside of the pigmented circle around the nipple of the breast. This kind of incision may be made during a number of surgical procedures including some breast biopsies and breast augmentation or reconstruction operations. The choice between having an areola incision or an incision under the armpit or across the breast will depend on the type of surgery being done and will be decided by the surgeon in consultation with the patient.
When undergoing plastic surgery for breast augmentation or reconstruction, the potential for post-operative scarring is often a concern. The areola incision may be recommended as the scarring then occurs along the edge of the pigmented section of skin and may, therefore, be less visible. When undergoing a mastectomy, or removal of the breast tissue due to cancer, the choice of whether or not an areola incision will be performed will depend on the severity and position of the cancer.
Prior to undergoing any kind of breast surgery, a full medical history will be taken by a nurse, including any medications currently being taken. Allergies and previous reactions to any drugs will be noted and often a full medical examination is completed. The surgical procedure, including the areola incision, will be performed under general anesthetic, in a hospital.
In most cases, breast surgery requires an overnight stay in the hospital and, depending on the extent of the surgery, may require numerous nights. After the areola incision has been made and the procedure completed, the incision will be sutured together, normally with dissolving stitches. A small tube, or drain, may be inserted in the wound to remove any tissue fluid, which will be removed once the fluid stops draining. The incision may be covered with sterile tape or a dressing.
On discharge, the nurse will explain how to care for the areola incision. This will include changing dressings, where necessary. The area should be kept clean and dry until it is completely healed, to prevent infection. A comfortable, supportive bra is also recommended, to prevent pulling at the incision site.
The surgeon will discuss when normal activity can be resumed, but usually light activity can be resumed within a week or two after the operation. Heavy lifting and vigorous exercise should be avoided. A post-surgery check-up will be performed by the surgeon within a couple of weeks at which time they will ascertain when full resumption of activity is acceptable.