Loss of Sensibility After a Breast Augmentation Surgery Through Periolar Incision

I am a 26 years old female and I just had a breast augmentation and areola reduction through periareolar incision 3 weeks ago. Before the surgery, the sensibility of my nipples was normal and sometimes, when it was cold, not only the nipple but the whole areola contracted. Now, 3 weeks after the surgery, my nipples are numb and the areola dont contract anymore I want to know if the sensibility of the nipples will return as well as the areola contraction?

Doctor Answers 16

Permanent numbness after implants is possible

Thank you for your question. Studies show that, on a national average 15% of breast augmentation patients get some permanent numbness to the nipple and areola area. It is likely that larger implants which require a larger pocket may have a higher incidence of numbness and small implants have a somewhat smaller incidence of numbness. Loss of contraction of the areola tends to occur with numbness. It can take up to a couple of years for all of the sensation to come back if it does come back. There is nothing to do but wait. 

Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Nipple Sensativity after Breast Augmentation

Hello CarolineF,

This is a fairly common phenomenon after breast augmentation with areolar reduction.  The sensibility of your nipples are controlled by nerves that run deep below and along the chest wall near the ribs.  Permanent loss of sensibility is unlikely, but is associated with implant size, not placement of incision.  It is not uncommon to have temporary loss of sensibility, and this usually comes back in the first few weeks to months.  Complete healing of nerves can take a year however.  No need to worry, it will likely come back, either completely or partially.

Nipple contraction is caused by a  completely different set of nerves that run along with the blood vessels, the same nerves that allow you to sweat and have 'goose bumps'.   When these nerves get injured, they almost always come back, but may also take a few months as well.  So nipple sensibility and nipple contraction are not linked together and their respective functions may return at different times. 

I hope that these are your only problems, and that you experience a complete return of your nipple sensibility.

Best of luck!

Gerald Minniti, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 89 reviews

Loss of sensation

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.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

Loss of Sensibility After a Breast Augmentation Surgery Through Periolar Incision

I am sorry to hear about the loss of sensation after breast augmentation surgery; as you know, this is a known risk of any type of breast surgery. Generally speaking, most patients regain  lost sensation within the first year after surgery, if return of sensation  is  going to happen. Unfortunately, if loss of sensation is permanent, there are no surgical or nonsurgical modalities that are helpful. Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,486 reviews

Loss of sensibility after a breast augmentation surgery through periareolar incision?

Hello! Thank you for your question! Your symptoms sound like your nerves regenerating. Breast procedures such as the breast augmentation and breast lift/reduction certainly result in a more shapely, perky, and fuller appearance of your breasts. With any breast procedure there is a risk, albeit very small, of change in sensation to the area. The reported rate of sensation changes (decreased, loss, or increased) is ~7% for lift/reductions and much smaller for breast augmentation. In my experience, this rate is reportedly much lower, but is higher when tissue is excised or the amount of lift that is needed, so the breast reduction procedure has a slightly greater risk. It can take up to a year for full sensation to return. Re-educating your nerves to these areas by using different textures when showering and putting on lotion often helps.

It is one risk of such a procedure, and one that you must consider, amongst others, as with any surgical procedure. You should consult with a plastic surgeon well-trained in breast procedures who will examine and discuss with you the various risks and benefits of the procedure(s) and assist you in deciding if such a procedure will be the right decision for you.

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Nipple sensitivity and contraction

Dear Sophie,
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. 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 47 reviews

Return of sensation after breast surgery

Allow yourself time to recover. Nerve endings begin to awaken as you go through the healing process. It may take 1 – 2 years for sensation to improve.  As with any surgery, permanent numbness is a possibility, but rare occurrence in my practice. Make sure you discuss this with your board-certified plastic surgeon.

George John Alexander, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Nipple Sensation After Breast Augmentation

It is not uncommon for patients to experience some change in nipple sensation after breast augmentation; this is usually temporary and returns over time.  By 9-12 months after surgery, your nipple sensation will probably have improved as much as it is going to improve.   However, 15% of patients will have a permanent, increase, decrease, or change in nipple sensation following breast augmentation.

Nipple/areola contraction is controlled by another set of nerves.  Your areolas may not be contracting because they are under tension (as expected) following the areola reduction, irritation/damage to the nerves, or both.  It is also likely that the ability of your areolas to contract will return over time, as well.  

Jaime Perez, M.D.

Breast Augmentation Specialist in Tampa, Florida

Plastic Surgery Center of Tampa, Florida

Jaime Perez, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

What you are experiencing is common.

What you are experiencing is common and expected this early after breast augmentation.  Most patients will have improvement commencing at 6 weeks and becoming progressively better in the ensuing year.

Chen Lee, MD
Montreal Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Breast augmentation

Many people do loose sensation after breast augmentation. However, most people to get sensation back over time.

David L. Abramson, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 12 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.