Is the nipple Sensation always less After Breast Reduction?

Are certain techniques going to cause permanent loss and others going to leave a chance that the sensation will return? How much less sensitivity should be expected?

Doctor Answers 12

Loss of sensation

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Loss of sensation in the nipple/areola is fortunately an uncommon occurrence.
In my experience, permanent loss of of sensation may be due to stretching of the sensory nerves by using very large implants causing a stretch injury or pressure on the nerves, extent of dissection which can damage the nerves, and the size of implant. I find that the location of the incision is not usually the reason for loss of sensation.
Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon is important when considering surgery, as it will lower your chances of complications.

Nipple sensation after Breast Reduction

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Athough most patient's will have near normal nipple sensation after breast reduction, some studies have noted reduced nipple sensation in 10% to 15% of patients having breast reduction.  A small percentage of patients will note hypersensitivity of the nipples following breast reduction but this usually resolves over time.  If the breasts are very massive or pendulous, the nipples may have to be removed from the breast tissue and replaced as free skin grafts.  In this case the nipples will remain relatively numb following the surgery.  Be sure to check with your surgeon as to which type of breast reduction he/she is planning.  Best Wishes.

Vincent D. Lepore, MD
San Jose Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction

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With most techniques of breast reduction, loss of nipple sensation is rare. The nipple/areola complex is not disrupted from its underlying tissue or nerve supply.   It is common for parts of the rest of the breast to become numb, typically the lower portion.  This is usually not very noticeable.  If a free nipple graft technique is used (The nipple areola are completely cut away from the breast and reapplied as a graft), nipple loss of sensation would be expected and is usually permanent.  Sometimes breast reduction  surgery can cause a temporary or permanent increase in sensation of the nipple.  This can be welcome or experienced as unpleasant.  Frequent light massage can reduce this effect over time.

Marialyn Sardo, MD
La Jolla Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Is the nipple Sensation always less After Breast Reduction?

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There are mostly decreases in sensation but very infrequently there can be increased. In general 15% of N/A have some sensory changes. 

Nipple sensation after breast reduction

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I think that in general most people have normal sensation aftera pedicled breast reduction, but there are studies that suggest that there is about a 10-15% report of permanent changes in sensation at 1 yr after surgery.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Nipple sensation after breast reduction

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On average loss of nipple sensation after a breast reduction procedure occurs in about 10-15% of cases.  The incidence is much in techniques that utilize a pedicle (nipple stays attached to blood supply).  Some extreme breast hypertrophy cases mandate the use of free nipple grafts where the nipple is removed, thinned, and replaced on well perfused tissue.  Sensation loss after this technique is 100% immediately following surgery, but sensation can return after a few months in some patients. 

Kelly Gallego, MD, FACS
Yuba City Plastic Surgeon

Nipple sensation following breast reduction

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You are correct in assuming that some techniques for reduction mammaplasty are more likely to preserve sensation to the nipple-areola complex than others. In my experience of several hundred inferior pedicle and central mound procedures, the most common sensory outcome is increased nipple sensitivity following the operation. This seems to last for at least several months, during my follow up period. Although I cannot offer evidence to support my assumption, I believe that nipple sensation is diminished on the large sagging breast because nerves of fixed length become dysfunctional when stretched after pregnancy, or upon hypertrophy and ptosis. When the breast is returned to it's intended position higher on the chest, these nerves are no longer stretched, and their function (sensation) returns.

Steve Laverson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

Free nipple graft technique will result in permanent loss of sensation

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Preservation of nipple sensation is one of the most frequently fielded questions for both breast reduction and breast lift patients.  Although large busted women may frequently have slightly less sensation, (possibly due to nerve stretch), current breast reduction techniques, which rely on a "pedicle" keeping the nipple supplied by one of its principal neurovascular (blood and nerve) supply should ensure that nipple sensation will remain intact.  Patients usually observe that the nipple-areolar complex is hypersensitive, during the immediate post-op course.  As the wound heals, 2-3 months later, sensibility normalizes. 

The only technique which causes permanent loss of nipple sensibility is the "free nipple graft" technique, which is limited to two clinical scenarios: a) massive breast reduction, >700-900gm/side in a patient who needs an expeditious technique.  In these patients, the nipple-areolar complex is taken off as a full thickness skin graft and reapplied to the reshaped breast mound. b) whenever the vascular blood supply of the nipple-areolar complex is in question, i.e. it becomes dusky, purple and appears to be in danger of necrosis. 

Hope this helps. Good luck. 

Lavinia K. Chong, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Nipple Sensation Likely To Be Normal After Reduction

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Although there are women who have permanent loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction, it is much more common (in my experience) to have normal nipple sensation after a period of time.  There can be a temporary decrease in sensation, but I find a temporary period of hypersensitivity to be more common.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Permanent Loss of Nipple Sensation after Breast Reduction

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What is the expected loss of nipple sensation after Breast Reduction?

First, many women with extremely large breasts do not have preoperative sensation because of the pull on the breast and the distance from the nerve roots to the nipples.   Occasionally, women have better sensation after the surgery.

Most patients loose sensation for 6 - 8 weeks after surgery.  The Inferior  pedicle technique has the best results when considering only nipple sensation retention.  as few as 1 -3 % have permanent loss of sensation.  Free nipple techniques have a 100% chance of loss of sensation.  Superior Pedicle techniques have a 3 - 8 % loss of sensation incidence.

The relief of symptoms make this an excellent operation for patients that are truely sympotmatic with significant back and neck pain.


Richard Greco, MD
Savannah Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

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