Nerve Damage Years After Tummy Tuck and Breast Lift, Is There Anything I Can Do?

I had a tummy tuck, breast lift and implants about 6 years ago. I still have no feeling on my stomach in a large area below my belly button. As well, I've lost some sensation in my nipples. Can anything be done to restore feeling in any of these areas once the damage has been done?

Doctor Answers 9

Sensory loss

If you have had sensory loss on your abdomen and of your nipples and the surgery was done several years ago, there is nothing that you can do to improve the sensation.

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Nerve damage after tummy tuck and breast lift.

By definition in performing a breast lift or tummy tuck we are changing the nerve supply to the tissues that we are moving or tightening.  In many cases the nerves that have been cut will regrow to the skin improving sensation to some of the numb areas within the first year.

In the areas that are farthest away and farthest moved such as the tummy skin above the pubic area after tummy tuck it is common to have some permanent numbness. In some cases the nerves to the nipples in breast augmention or lift can be stretched or damaged as well. This does not mean you had a bad surgery or surgeon. It is simply a know consequence of embarking on these procedures.

While sensation can sometimes improve up to a year, I think it is unlikely you will see improvement six years later. I know of no treatment currently that will restore sensation. 

I hope that you still find great satisfaction in your surgery non the less.

Adam Tattelbaum, MD
Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

Numbness and surgery

Unfortunately during any surgery where skin or deeper structures are lifted and repositioned (tummy tuck, breast lift, breast reduction, and sometimes breast augmentation) sensation loss is possible.  Most patients who have these procedures will gain back some sensation if they lose any at all.  For tummy tucks most everyone is numb to some degree for at least 6-12 months.  Some areas can be permanent.  This is not nerve damage and is inherent to the type of operation a tummy tuck is.  The sacrifice for abdominal rejuvenation is at times sensation loss or change to small areas.  Nothing was done wrong during your surgeries to cause this.  Unfortunately at 6 years its unlikely that you will see any improvement and there is no real fix to improve things.  The good news is that you may notice it less as time goes on.  I would look at the glass as 1/2 full and feel good about the improvements you made in your body shape.  Sincerely, Dr. Kerr.

Mahlon Kerr, MD, FACS
Austin Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 216 reviews

Numbness below the umbilicus after a tummy tuck isn't "damage" or the surgeon's fault

All TT patients have some numbness belwo the umbilicus long term if you ask them.  This is not "nerve damage" as if it is something the surgeon could control or something they did wrong.  Lifting the skin to do the TT divides neves that are microscpoic and must be divided to do the surgery.  Same with lifting the breasts.  Honestly there's nothing you can do at 6 years other than learn to adjust to it.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Loss of Sensation After a Tummy Tuck and Breast Lift

Dear Curious6529,

Sadly, after six years, it is not likely that you will regain more sensation in the areas you described.  While it is uncommon to have the amount of numbness you noted, it certainly can occur.  There are no established treatments that can stimulate new nerve growth into these areas at this time.  I wish I had better news for you but..


Herluf G. Lund, Jr, MD
Saint Louis Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 83 reviews

Loss of Sensation after Tummy Tuck and Breast Lift?

Thank you for the question.

No,  unfortunately, there is no treatment for loss of sensation in the areas that you have described.   Also, unfortunately, any improved sensation that will occur with ( 6 years after surgery)  will be very minimal.

Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,488 reviews

Nerve damage years after tummy tuck and breast lift - is tere anything I can do?

Hello! Thank you for your question! Numbness after any surgical procedure is expected for several weeks to months following. As the nerves to the area are traumatized and will then experience a temporary neuropraxia, a transient loss of nerve conduction. This usually resolves over the next 6-12 weeks, but depending on the procedure performed, sometimes much longer. Typically this should resolve by 1 year. As it goes past this date, the likelihood of the sensation returning is small. However, it can take up to 2 years. If no return from there, it is unlikely to return. It should be discussed that persistent sensory changes may develop following any surgical procedure.  At 6 years out, there is likely nothing that can be done.

The usual signs of the nerves regenerating and neuropraxia resolving is itching, followed by a burning sensation and then occasional sharp, shock-like pains. These will be normal to experience, and actually a promising sign. Usually, normal sensation returns, but is is also possible to have decreased sensation or even increased sensation to the areas affected. Re-educating nerves postoperatively is often helpful and will allow proper instruction for the affected sensory nerves - methods include using different textures to the affected areas when showering, bathing, applying lotion, etc. If bothersome, there are some medications that may be helpful, including Neurontin for pain for hypersensitivity. You can try various textures such as washcloths, loofahs, cotton sheets, etc. Massaging the areas is also beneficial for the incision to make the finest scar possible. The last place to regain the sensation will be directly adjacent to the incision/scar as the nerves will make its way from the periphery to this location. If continual pain arises, evaluation is warranted. After ruling out other causes, one rare explanation may be that a neuroma has developed and may require surgical excision. This is very unlikely unless a large sensory nerve has been transected inadvertently during the procedure. Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

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

Numbness and Swelling post tummy tuck

Thank you for your post. In a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty surgery, the tissue above the abdominal muscles is lifted off of the muscles from the lower scar to the ribs in a full tummy tuck and to the umbilicus in a mini tummy tuck. The superficial nerves that travel through the muscle to the skin are cut in order to do this. This is what causes the numbness afterward. The numbness usually extends in the entire area that was lifted up. On occasion, a superficial nerve to the thigh could be pulled causing numbness in this area as well. Swelling happens after surgery and also tends to be in the entire area that has been lifted up and any area that has received liposuction. Both numbness and swelling may take months to years to go away, and the last place for both to go away is the area right above the incision centrally, and sometimes right below the belly button. It may take up to 2 years to get to baseline sensation. sometimes, certain areas never feel totally normal, especially the area right above the incision centrally. If tingling or itchiness develop, that is a sign that the nerves are growing back. This is normally well tolerated, but occasionally, a nerve type pain medication is needed such as neurontin.
Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Tummy Tuck - Nerve Damage Years After Tummy Tuck and Breast Lift, Is There Anything I Can Do?

In a word - no.  At this late stage it is unlikely that additional sensation will return, but even in the early stages following these procedures there isn't anything you can DO to improve the results from that standpoint.  Fortunately, significant degrees of diminished and altered sensation are rare with these procedures but they can occur, as is well known, and when they do it is understandably disconcerting.  However, again, there is little that can be done about it, short of redoing the procedures very early (within day or weeks) but ONLY IF a direct contributing cause has been identified.  And that scenario is extremely unlikely.

I hope that this helps, and good luck,

Dr. E

Alan M. Engler, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 125 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.