FTM Chest Reconstruction Surgery Procedure Options

FTM Top Surgery is any procedure designed to remove breast tissue and masculinize the chest of a transman or non-binary transmaculine person.   The medical term for FTM Top Surgery is “Transgender Mastectomy” and is in the category of procedures considered to be reconstructive chest surgery. When the presence of breast tissue is a component of gender dysphoria, FTM top surgery can be a highly effective treatment. By removing unwanted breast tissue, FTM top surgery allows patients to feel more comfortable with their bodies by better aligning physical characteristics with an internal sense of self and the self they want to present to the world.

Many surgical procedures to fall within the category of FTM top surgery. These include the most common and powerful double incision procedure, as well as minimal scar techniques such as the keyhole or periareolar incision, as well as different skin excision procedures and procedures which to varying degrees, preserve the nerve supply to the nipples, such as the inverted T, the buttonhole, the lollipop, and the fishmouth. Each of these procedures come with both benefits and costs so a thorough discussion with a surgeon comfortable with performing all of the available procedures is the best way to match your desires, priorities and anatomy with the best procedure for you.

FTM Incision Choices

When it comes to incision location, there are several possible options that will be discussed in-depth during your consultation. The incisions used during your surgery will depend on the size of your chest and its level of elasticity or firmness.

Incision options include the following:

Liposuction incision

Liposuction may rarely be performed alone (if you have a very small chest and no skin sagging), or more commonly be done in combination with other incision patterns to remove excess tissue. Liposuction requires a very small incision (about 4mm) to access underlying tissue.  Most patients require more extensive tissue removal to achieve desired results.

Keyhole incision

A keyhole incision is ideal for patients with small breasts and good skin elasticity. During this technique, a small incision is made under or across the lower border of the areola (the pigmented skin around the nipple). A keyhole incision can remove underlying tissue, but it cannot address excess skin.

Circumareolar/Periareolar incision

A periareolar incision is ideal for patients with moderate breast tissue and good skin elasticity. A circular incision is made all the way around the edge of the areola to remove breast tissue. A slightly larger ring incision is then made to remove excess skin. The skin is pulled taut toward the center and the nipple is reattached. This effect mimics the act of pulling a drawstring bag closed. Another vertical incision that extends below the areola may also be necessary to target additional excess skin.

Double incision

A double incision approach is usually needed for patients with large breasts, or breasts that sag quite a bit. A horizontal or U-shaped incision is made on the lower border of the pectoral (chest) muscle. The skin is peeled back so that breast and fatty tissue can be removed. Another incision is then made to remove the nipple. Each nipple is resized, if necessary and then replaced as a free nipple graft in position that will give the chest a more masculine appearance. If your breasts are shaped such that your nipple position is lower than the fold beneath the breasts, then you will likely require the double incision or an inverted T (anchor) incision type.

Inverted T (anchor) FTM incision

An inverted T (anchor) incision pattern is also an option for patients with larger breasts with extra skin. This procedure keeps the nipple and areola attached to native body tissue, avoiding the need for a free nipple graft. Though the surgeon has good control over breast volume, there is a good chance that nipple sensation will be significantly diminished or need to recover from being numb. Advantages include avoiding the free nipple graft (and therefore a lower risk of complete nipple loss) and having a nipple and areola that is more full in appearance. A disadvantage is the presence of an additional vertical incision, and it cannot achieve the same level of flatness as with the double incision approach (because of the tissue left behind to supply blood to the nipple area).

Fishmouth incision

This approach produces incision contours that are higher on the chest, and therefore more consistent with the border of the chest muscle. However, it requires the final areolar position to be in line with the scar, which is not a natural proportion between the areola and the shadow of the muscle, which this scar is trying to mimic. Because of this, fishmouth incision is infrequently used except in the case of non-binary transmasculine patients.

Other Incision Types

Less common incision types include the lollipop incision, which is similar to the periareolar incision but with a vertical incision extending down from the areola, and the two-stage perareolar incision in which the first stage is a keyhole approach to remove all breast tissue and see how the skin responds, to make sure that a periareolar surgery is acceptable for the 2nd stage (versus needing to remove more tissue with a double incision-type approach, for example).

Nipple and Areola Appearance

Dr. Mosser will make your nipples look as natural as possible following surgery. In some cases a nipple graft may be necessary to achieve this goal. A nipple graft involves detaching, resizing and relocating the nipple-areolar complex to appear more masculine. It is possible (though unlikely) for nipple grafts to be lost due to tissue death, in which case an additional FTM procedure to create and tattoo a replacement nipple and areola can be performed, if desired.

There is a small chance that you will be unhappy with the placement or position of your nipples. It will take several months before the final results of your procedure are visible. If after sufficient healing time you are still unhappy with the appearance of your nipples, a revision surgery can be performed.

Post-surgical Scarring

It is important to have realistic expectations before undergoing surgery. At our San Francisco practice, Dr. Mosser will make every effort to make your scarring as minimal as possible, it is likely that you will have permanent scarring following FTM chest surgery.

Your level of scarring will depend on the type of procedure along with your specific skin type (and its propensity towards scarring). Additionally, smokers may experience slower than normal healing which may cause scars to worsen. It is recommended that all patients quit smoking in advance of surgery.

Following surgery, you will be provided with specific instructions on how to minimize the appearance of scarring. Your scars will appear dark and bumpy for the first few months after surgery. However, over the course of 12-18 months, they will gradually fade, flatten and become less noticeable.