Ask a doctor

How Does a Breast Lift Impact Nipple Sensation?

Does it make a difference between Bennelli and crescent incisions on the possible loss of feeling?

Doctor Answers (13)

Breast lifts and nipple sensation.


Any type of breast lift involves incisions, and incisions can sever sensory nerves. Nipple/areola sensation is generally provided via the 4th lateral intercostal nerve (occasionally branches from the 3rd and the 5th), which courses along the lateral chest wall where it enters the breast and has terminal branches in the nipple area. Since these nerves are not in or immediately beneath the skin, skin-only incisions should theoretically preserve sensation. However, the surgical reality is that incisions are slightly below the skin, in the subcutaneous fat layer, and can damage or sever the nerve or its branches, causing temporary or permanent numbness.

If a breast lift is being done in conjunction with implant placement for enlargement, creation of the implant pocket can also damage or sever the sensory nerve(s) to the nipple. This occurs in about 5-10% of augmentation patients. With a full lift, numbness occurs in somewhat more, around 15% or so.

A crescent lift, IMHO, is essentially a "worthless" lift, as the amount of nipple elevation is NEVER more than a few millimeters. Ask yourself if the additional cost is worth several mm only? A Benelli round-block technique can provide modest lifting, but can flatten the breast, create irregular and potentially unsightly scars, and can cause a purse-string appearance around the areola depending on the suture choice and exact technique. Neither of these "lifts" should cause an undue risk of losing nipple sensation, but I would still advise that about 5-15% of patients may lose some sensation with either of these (not-recommended or rarely-recommended) lifts, simply because the incisions are placed right where the nerve branches exist.

Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Breast Lift or Mastopexy can alter nipple sensation


Any surgery involving the breast and around the areola/ nipple complex can potentially affect nipple sensation. The chance of loosing nipple sensation depending on the extent of the surgery. Most people have about 75% chance of not loosing any sensation, 15% chance of loosing some sensation, and 10% chance of loosing all the feeling in one nipple. this can also vary depending on your surgeons skills.

S. Sean Younai, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

Can a breast lift affect nipple sensation?


Although any surgery on the breast has the potential risk of affecting nipple sensation, in general standard breast lifts do not result in loss of nipple sensation.  Breast reductions have a somewhat higher risk of affecting sensation, as do breast augmentations, and some breast lift techniques that do a greater amount of deep tissue manipultation.  In other words, skin level procedures have less risk since the nipple sensation comes from nerves that travel up through the breast tissue.  Any procedure that involves deeper dissection, as listed, may increase the risk of nerve damage.

Robert M. Grenley, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

You might also like...

Does it make a difference between Bennelli and crescent incisions on the possible loss of feeling?


Neither the Benelli breast lift nor the crescent procedure should affect nipple sensation.

You should know the following: the Benelli lift should only be used in combination with an implant, and only if very minor lift is needed. The Benelli procedure causes flattening of the breast and can produce significant distortion of the areola. Some of the worst results I have seen in cosmetic breast surgery have been produced by this operation.

The crescent lift is essentially useless.

More effective lifts such as the vertical (or 'lollipop') mastopexy, can lead to loss of nipple sensitivity.

Properly educated patients who benefit from a skilfully-executed procedure rarely complain of loss of nipple sensitivity, including those for whom this was important preoperatively.

Eric Pugash, MD
Vancouver Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

Any style of breast lift can impair nipple sensation.


Any style of breast lift can impair nipple sensation.

If you are having a Benelli or crescent lift, your breast are probably not sagging very much as these procedures do very little to elevate the breast. Therefore, they should not produce a high incidence of decreased nipple sensation, Howver, neither surgery will do very much to lift the breast.

If your breasts are very pendulous, you need a true breast lift, and there will be more risk of loss of nipple sensation.  No free lunch.

G. Gregory Gallico, III, MD, FACS
Associate Professor, Plastic Surgery
Massachusetts General Hospital
170 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA  02116
Tel: 617-267-5553
Fax: 617-267-5507


G. Gregory Gallico III, MD
Boston Plastic Surgeon
3.5 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Nipple sensation after breast lift


For most techniques in breast lift there is little risk to nipple sensation as the nerves come into the nipple deeper within the breast than nearer the surface of the skin. The Benelli or round block incision and the upper crescent approach places little risk to nipple sensation. Keep in mind also that the upper crescent lift does little of anything.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Breast lift and sensation loss


There is minimal risk of losing sensation with either approach for breast lift.  The nerves to the nipple and areola come through the breast gland, not from the surrounding skin.  As long as the breast gland underneath is not violated, you should have sensation post op.

Ricardo Izquierdo, MD
Oak Brook Plastic Surgeon
3.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Breast lift incisions and numbness


a Benelli incision is just a peri-aerola (circular incision) of the nipple and aerola complex. A crescent incision is just a partial (bottom or top half).  Both of these techniques are only applicable with people with minimal drooping. People with more drooping need either a classic anchor style or the Le Jour style.

there is a small but minimal risk of numbness of the nipple following a breast lift , regardless of technique. I would not let the decision on which technique you use hinge on loss of nipple sensation. I would recommend you see someone experienced in this surgery and choose which technique will give you the best aesthetic results.

Jack Peterson, MD
Topeka Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Numbness and breast lifts


There is no hard data to answer your question but I would say that there should be essentially minimal to no difference in numbness incidence after a Benelli or a crescent lift.  The thing to make sure of is that these two very minor lifts are going to give you enough lift to get a great looking result.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Lift and nipple sensation?

Dear Houston,
Thank you for your post. In general, most women who have a disturbance in nipple sensation, whether it be less (hypo-sensation), or in some cases too much (hyper-sensation), the sensation goes back to normal with 3-6 months. Occasionally, it can take 1 - 2 years to be normal. Extremely rare, the sensation never goes back to normal. This is extremely rare in augmentation alone, more common in lift or reduction but less with a smaller lift like a crescent lift. Signs that sensation is coming back are needle type sensation at the nipple, itchiness at the nipple, or 'zingers' to the nipple. The number of women that lose sensation is much lower than 10%, closer to 1% in a simple augmentation. In some cases the same occurs with contraction where some women have no contraction and some women have a constant contraction of the nipples. Unfortunately there is no surgical correction for this. Massaging the area can help sensation normalize faster if it is going to normalize, but will not help if the nerve does not recover. In women with hyper-sensitive nipples, this will go away with time in most cases. Usually 3 months or so. In the interim, I have them wear nipple covers or 'pasties' to protect them from rubbing. It is unlikely that down-sizing the implant will cause regaining sensation. Down-sizing the implant may cause saggy breasts, however, and may necessitate a breast lift.
Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 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.