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The arterial supply of the nipple areola complex (NAC) and its relations: an analysis of angiographic CT imaging for breast pedicle design

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To investigate the blood supply to the nipple areola complex (NAC) on thoracic CT angiograms (CTA) to improve breast pedicle design in reduction mammoplasty.


In a single centre, CT scans of the thorax were retrospectively reviewed for suitability by a cardiothoracic radiologist. Suitable scans had one or both breasts visible in extended fields, with contrast enhancement of breast vasculature in a female patient. The arterial sources, intercostal space perforated, glandular/subcutaneous course, vessel entry point, and the presence of periareolar anastomoses were recorded for the NAC of each breast.


From 69 patients, 132 breasts were suitable for inclusion. The most reproducible arterial contribution to the NAC was perforating branches arising from the internal thoracic artery (ITA) (n = 108, 81.8%), followed by the long thoracic artery (LTA) (n = 31, 23.5%) and anterior intercostal arteries (AI) (n = 21, 15.9%). Blood supply was superficial versus deep in (n = 86, 79.6%) of ITA sources, (n = 28, 90.3%) of LTA sources, and 10 (47.6%) of AI sources. The most vascularly reliable breast pedicle would be asymmetrical in 7.9% as a conservative estimate.


We suggest that breast CT angiography can provide valuable information about NAC blood supply to aid customised pedicle design, especially in high-risk, large-volume breast reductions where the risk of vascular-dependent complications is the greatest and asymmetrical dominant vasculature may be present. Superficial ITA perforator supplies are predominant in a majority of women, followed by LTA- and AIA-based sources, respectively.

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Correspondence to Aaron D. Stirling.

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Stirling, A.D., Murray, C.P. & Lee, M.A. The arterial supply of the nipple areola complex (NAC) and its relations: an analysis of angiographic CT imaging for breast pedicle design. Surg Radiol Anat 39, 1127–1134 (2017).

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