How is Nipple Sensitivity After Breast Reduction?

I'm having a Breast reduction and will not be able to keep my nipple intact. Is there anyway detaching the nipples can be avoided and what problems can I expect to have from the nipples being removed and reattached?

I'm having a breast reduction in July. My doctor told me that at my size he will not be able to keep my nipple intact. I'm basically going to have no nipple sensation after the reduction? I'm a 36J in bra size. During my initial consult from collar bone to nipple it's about 43cm.

Doctor Answers 14

Free nipple grafting and sensation

From what you described, it sounds like you are having a free nipple graft breast reduction. After this procedure, you will not be able to breast feed and it is unlikely for you to have erogenous sensation in your nipples. You may not have any sensation at all. Some people do get back deep pressure sensation.

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Free nipple graft means numb nipple

If you are having a free nipple graft, you will have numb nipples because the nerves are completely severed.  They also will not react to cold or stimulation.  Even with your measurements, I wouldn't jump straight to a free nipple graft procedure. I would do an inferior pedicle technique and see how the blood supply looks during surgery.  At least that way, I would know we've given you every chance to keep your nipples intact.

Carmen Kavali, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Nipple Sensitivity After Breast Reduction

In rare circumstances, for extraordinarily large or bulky breasts, i.e. gigantomastia, for technical reasons, the nipples are completely removed and reattached as “free grafts”. The sensory nerves are all cut, and even though a certain amount of sensation returns after healing, it will never be normal and erotic sensation if present prior to surgery (many of these patients preoperatively do not have this due to stretch of their nerves) is lost completely. The milk ducts are interrupted in this operation, so nursing would be impossible. You will be amply informed in advance if your #breasts are in this category. This may be one of the exceptions where the inverted “T” or Anchor technique is utilized.

I prefer to use a minimal incision surgery with a “#vertical” or “#lollipopBreastReduction scar technique. This method has been used in Europe and South America for more than 30 years but is performed by a small number of Plastic Surgeons in this country.The trend toward using this much better procedure is growing as younger plastic surgeons learn this technique in their residency programs.The benefits include: approximately fifty percent less scarring, a narrower breast, better forward projection and shape, longer lasting improvement, shorter surgery time and less complications. In general, we have stopped using the older traditional “anchor” or inverted “T” incisions as these provide inferior results.

Jed H. Horowitz, MD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Options other than a free nipple graft

Without your photos and an exam it is difficult to give you an accurate answer.
Free Nipple Graft is only required in reduction of massively enlarged breasts and a J cup size would qualify for this. It results in inability to breast feed, loss of sensation, loss of nipple projection, incomplete take of the nipple/areolar graft and other complications can occur with this procedure. In my practice this is a very unusual as even very large breasts can be reduced with other techniques. On the other hand this is a technique that should be considered when it is expected that there is not sufficient blood supply for the nipple and areola survival in extreme cases. One option your surgeon can try is to see if the nipple/areola has a sufficient blood supply at the time of surgery. If not then he can go ahead with the free graft technique.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

How is nipple sensitivity after breast reduction?

Hello! Thank you for your question!  With that large of a breast reduction that it sounds like you will have, it is not uncommon to have some changes in your sensation.  Consideration for a free nipple graft should be discussed.   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.

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 17 reviews

Nipple Sensation Following Breast Reduction Surgery

         The breast reduction technique that you describe is utilized for extremely large breasts with severe breast sag. This procedure involves totally removing the nipple areola complexes and replacing them as free skin grafts. Unfortunately when this procedure is utilized the nerves are divided and the nipple no longer has sensation.


         Traditional breast reduction techniques leave the nipple areola complexes attached to the underlying breast tissue. In women with significant breast sag, this can put the blood supply to the nipple areola at risk and potentially cause tissue loss.


         If you’re concerned about nipple sensation, it’s important to discuss this issue with your plastic surgeon. Depending on your anatomy, tolerance for risk and aesthetic goals, your surgeon may have some latitude regarding the choice of breast reduction technique used. Another approach may be possible that preserves nipple areola sensation and ultimately meets your aesthetic goals. 

How is Nipple Sensitivity After Breast Reduction

After a routine breast reduction nerve sensation returns to normal but is sometimes delayed.  If your breasts are extremely large then a nipple amputation must be performed and the nipple areolar complex will have to be reattached to the reduced breast at the correct location as a free nipple graft.  These usually heal well but the sensory nerves are cut so there will be no sensation. However, patients have reported that they have some nipple erection with sympathetic stimuli.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Nipple Sensation after Breast Reduction?

Thank you for the question.

Some patients require “free nipple grafting” when undergoing breast reduction surgery. These patients generally have very large breasts and a long distance from the sternal notch to the current nipple areola position.  Patients who require nipple/ areola grafting  will not have any sensation after surgery.  These patients are generally pleased with the results of the surgery nevertheless given the relief of symptoms ( at least partial)  after the breast reduction surgery.

Most patients undergoing breast reduction surgery however do not require free nipple grafting;  the majority of these patients will have normal sensation of the nipple/areola after surgery.

Best wishes.

Nipple sensation after breast reduction

If you are planning to have a free nipple graft with your breast reduction, then you may lose your sensation.  However, not all breast reductions require the complete removal of your nipple (free nipple graft).  The technique used will often times determine the chances of losing nipple sensation, which generally is in the 10% range. If your breasts are extremely large and your surgeon is concerned about the blood supply to the nipple/areola then a free nipple graft offers the best chance at preserving the nipple, but not necessarily it's sensation.

If you are unsure about this issue, please ask your surgeon to review the technique again with you so you have a better understanding of the surgical plan.

Best wishes,


William Bruno, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 281 reviews

Nipple sensation after breast reduction

Patients today have many excellent choices in breast reduction surgery. The amount of nipple sensation after surgery depends on the surgical technique that was used. In our practice we almost never remove the nipple from the underlying tissue. This is so that we can preserve the structures of the nipple and the sensitivity. If you are going to receive a surgery where the nipple is completely removed and then placed as a free nipple graft onto the new breast, you will lose almost all sensation to the nipple. After your healing process, you may have minimal sensation to touch in this area.

Be sure that you're working with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has a great deal of experience with breast reduction techniques. Ask your surgeon of the multiple techniques that may be used for your surgery in which technique may prevent removing the nipple in the first place.

Pat Pazmino, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 76 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.