Nipple Sensation After Breast Reduction

Hi! I had a breast reduction a year and a half ago (June 2010). I went from a size DD to a size C. Since the operation, I have not regained sensation to both nipples. Is this normal after such a long time? Can I still hope to have the sensation come back?

Doctor Answers 12

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.

Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

Nipple Numbness?

Dear Hippie,
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 normally. Extremely rarely, the sensation never goes back to normal. This is extremely rare in augmentation alone, more common in lift or reduction. Signs that sensation is comming back are needle type sensation at the nipple, itchyness 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. 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.
Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

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

Loss Of Nipple Sensation After Reduction

A certain number of women will have a permanent loss of nipple sensation following breast reduction surgery.  The percentage is in the neighborhood of 3-6%, depending upon the technique used.  If you have had no improvement in your nipple sensation 18 months following your reduction surgery, it is unlikely that you will you a change in the future.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Breast Reduction and Nipple Sensation?

Thank you for the question.

I'm sorry to hear about your loss of sensation after breast reduction surgery. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that significant sensation will return at this point. Hopefully, you are pleased with the benefits that breast reduction surgery  usually affords.

Best wishes.

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

Sensation in nipples

If you do not have sensation in your nipples after a year and a half, it is likely you will never get it back. 

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Nipple Sensation Loss Possible But Not Probable

  • Assuring nipple sensation with breast surgery has always been very important.  Over time some techniques have been adopted and others no longer performed because of nipple loss or nipple sensation loss.  In breast reduction, the loss of nipple sensation is at its greatest risk.  Skin and breast tissue is removed from all around the nipple and this dramatically increases the risk of sensation problems.  I have found the use of an inferior pedicle supporting the nipple has provided me the best chance of preserving blood supply and nerve supply to the nipple in almost all sizes of breast reduction.  This technique preserves the breast tissue from the chest wall all the way to the nipple in an effort to preserve the blood supply as well as the nerve supply for the nipple.  No technique is 100% safe but over time this technique has proven to be one of the most reliable as well as giving a nice post op projection and fullness to the breasts.

John K. Long, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Loss of Sensation is Transient

Although breast reduction is considered a safe operative procedure, occasionally complications do occur.Decreased nipple areola sensation reportedly occurs in five to fifteen percent of patients who undergo breast reduction surgery.
This complication appears to be related to the surgical technique used and the amount of breast tissue removed from the breast.In cases where large amounts of breast tissue are removed, there’s a higher incidence of decreased sensation.In addition, surgical techniques that remove breast tissue inferiorly near the breast fold are also associated with an increased incidence of numbness.
The vast majority of patients who undergo breast reduction surgery report high satisfaction rates even when sensation is decreased.In these cases, resolution of symptoms is the priority.
In the vast majority of patients loss of sensation is transient.When sensation is absent for a year or longer it should be considered permanent.It’s important that you discuss this issue thoroughly with your plastic surgeon.Although relatively rare, there’s no question that loss of nipple sensation can potentially occur with this procedure.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

Nipple sensation after breast reduction?

Hello! Thank you for your question! Breast procedures such as the breast lift and breast reduction certainly result in a more shapely, perky, and fuller appearance of your breasts along with raising of the nipple-areolar complex to an appropriate position. Since there is an incision made around the areola along with some rearrangement of tissue of the breast, 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%. 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 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

Loss of Nipple Sensation after Breast Reduction

Loss of nipple sensation following breast reduction surgery is uncommon, but unfortunately, may be permanent.  Most patients regain nipple sensation within 6-12 months following surgery, however, some may take up to two years.  Though uncommon, loss of nipple sensation is a known and unpredictable risk of breast reduction surgery.

Steven L. Ringler, MD, FACS
Grand Rapids Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction

Loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction occurs about 10% of the time and is sometimes permanent.  If sensation hasn't returned at 1 year, it is not likely to return. Some individuals have had return of sensation at 2 years but this is the exception and not the rule.

J. Jason Wendel, MD, FACS
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 182 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.