Loss of Sensation After Breast Augmentation?

I am 34 and thinking about getting breast implants mostly to even out my chest (one breast is a C-cup, the other is a B-cup).  I want my breasts to look better and more symmetrical, but I am really scared of losing sensation in this area. What I want to know is - Will breast implants cause me to lose sensation in my breasts?  Is there anything I can do to avoid this, or is it inevitable if I undergo breast augmentation? Thanks a lot!

Doctor Answers 114

Sensation after breast augmentation

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You should be able to feel your breasts after this surgery. Typically, you'll see loss of sensation when the difference pre and post op is very significant. If you start an a-cup and move to a d-cup you may be stretching the nerves so much that they loose blood supply and struggle to transmit sensation impulses.

During surgery the nerve could get stretched though, remember that this implant is not really meant to be there so it could happen even in the case of an implant that is not too large. Typically you just have to wait and the sensory disturbance is improved. In your case since you just want symmetry and some improvement in their fullness your goals are achievable with very low risk to sensory injury. The possibility exists no matter what size the implant is or who does the surgery but it is very low. Stick to plastic surgeons who perform this operation regularly.

Best wishes.

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Risks of Surgery

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With any surgery, there are risks and possible complications. However, choosing a board certified plastic surgeon is very important when considering surgery. There is a low percentage rate of patients who lose sensation after breat augmentation surgery. There is also a risk of hyper-sensitivity. Some patients report numbness for a couple months and then their sensation returns. Results may vary from patient to patient depending on the severity and complexity of your case. Best wishes.

Sensation loss and breast augmentation

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Loss of sensation of your breasts can occur with augmentation, but the overall incidence of permanent sensation loss is very low.

Things that can increase the chance of having permanent sensation loss are:

  • Large implants 
  • Incisions around the nipple

Robert Steely, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Loss of sensation with breast implants

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There is always the risk that there may be some loss of sensation with placing breast implants, but this is fortunately a rare occurrence. It is not uncommon for there to be some temporary changes in sensation right after the surgery due to swelling and the stretch from the implant to the nerves, but this usually doesn't last.

There seems to be a difference in incidence of loss of sensation with the incision placement. The closer you are to the nerve to the nipple, the higher the chance of loss of sensation.

The periareolar incision has the highest chance of loss of sensation, with stats being about 15%. The inframamary incision has about a 5% chance of loss of sensation. This is one of the reasons that I like the transaxillary approach, as the chance of loss of sensation is, according to published papers, about a 1% chance. This makes sense, as you are further away from the nerve that goes to the nipple, if you are going in at the armpit, and going under the muscle.

Each surgeon has his own statistics, and you should feel free to ask each one his own stats when you see him. As always, make sure that your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. To be a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) means that the surgeon does a preponderance of his work in Aesthetic Surgery, so this can be a plus as well.

Dan Mills, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Loss of sensation is possible but not inevitable with breast implants

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Loss or decrease in sensation is a possible complication of operating on any breast. Changes in sensation is the second most common patient complaint following breast augmentation (after capsular contracture).

The choice of incision may impact on changes in sensation - some surgeons feel that the inframammary (below the breast) approach increases risk and others feel that the periareolar approach (under the nipple) increases risk; there are many studies in the literature to support both opinions. However, a study published in 2007 out of Brazil found no difference between either incision.

The main risk for sensory changes seems to be the relative size of the implant selected - this means putting a large implant into a small breast appears to increase the risk. The reasons for this are likely due to the increased amount of dissection needed to create the large pocket for the implant (and dissection increases the possibility of injuring the nerves); it is also likely due to the pressure and stretch on the nerves due to the large implant in a smaller breast.

In your case, you would likely only need a small implant to make up the one cup size difference in your breasts, but this would need to be determined in consultation with your plastic surgeon.

Kim Meathrel, MD
Ontario Plastic Surgeon

Jaime-- this is a very common question. The short...

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Jaime-- this is a very common question. The short answer is that the risk exists, but it is pretty low. There are some folks that suggest that an incision under the breast in the breast crease is less likely to cause a problem compared to the incision in the areola, so many surgeons will exclusively only perform the procedure through this one incision.

The bottom line is that you have to sit down with your plastic surgeon and discuss the risk versus your desire to have breast augmentation, and make a decision that you're comfortable with; this includes letting your surgeon know which incision you prefer, as most of us are able to perform the procedure through either incision depending on the patient's anatomy and their preference. In the end, take your time and make a decision you're comfortable with.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 155 reviews

Sensation loss

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losing sensation from a sub pectoral breast augmentation is rather rare.  There can be some transient loss, but it usually improves with time.  An IMF incision can help to avoid the nipple and cutting nerves directly adjacent to it as well.  Good luck

Breast Augmentation Loss of Feeling or Breast Sensation

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Thank you for your question-it is an important one.

Fortunately loss of feeling or sensation is uncommon after Breast Augmentation Surgery. The rate is about 5%.

Fortunately most loss of feeling is temporary and sensation or feeling comes back after time.

There are two types of loss of feeling:

  • Loss of Nipple Sensation
  • Loss of Sensation in the Cleavage Area

It is more common to lose sensation in the Cleavage Area between the breasts-this often gets better with time.

Loss of Nipple Sensation is less common but of course more serious. The loss of nipple sensation is uncommon but can happen. It happens when the nerve to the nipple is damaged during surgery. It is more common when very large Breast Implants are used as the surgeon has to do more dissection to make room for a very large implant.

Loss of sensation usually can be avoided by very careful dissection. Discuss this with your surgeon pre op and chances are very good that you will not have this problem.

15 percent chance of Numbness after Breast Augmentation

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If you are absolutely not willing to risk any numbness after Breast Augmentation, you should NOT have the operation. Although 85% of women who have the operation do not suffer numbness, less than 2 in 10 women can end up with permanent numbness.

The feeling to the nipple in most women depends on the functioning of the end branches of the sensory nerves that leave under the 5the rib and enter the breast along its side. If the implant is very wide, if the side pocket is made wide to allow its placement or if this thin nerve is nor visualized in surgery, it can be stretched or cut resulting in numbness. Such numbness, despite what surgeons may say, is not 100% avoidable. You need to discuss this BEFORE your surgery to make sure you understand it.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Breast Augmentation and Loss of Sensation

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Loss of sensation, while rare, is a known complication of breast augmentation and may be related to several variables--choice of incision, extent of dissection, and size of implant.

To begin, there are three main approaches to Breast Augmentation:

  • Below the fold (IMF approach)
  • Under the arm (trans-axillary approach)
  • Through the areola (periareolar approach)

There is no perfect approach and every incision has its advantages and its disadvantages. The most important thing for you, as a client, is to weigh your options and decide what approach works best for you individually. The periareolar approach is thought to have a slightly increased risk for sensation loss because dissection must pass from the skin and then directly through glandular tissue. In contrast, the other two approaches pass beneath the muscle and generally avoid the nerves altogether.

Another factor which may affect sensation is the extent and manner of tissue dissection. Many surgeons feel that blunt dissection to the lateral aspect of the breast pocket may protect nerves and avoid loss of sensation, although there is very little hard evidence to support this.

The final factor is the degree of augmentation. The more you stretch your tissue, the more potential you have for temporary or even permanent nerve injury.

The good news is that even with all of these potential causes for nerve injury, loss of sensation is actually very uncommon.

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.