What Are the Stats on Loss of Nipple Sensitivity After Breast Reduction Surgery?

I am 5ft 3" and a 32G cup and 43 years old. I am considering breast reduction surgery to relieve back, neck and shoulder pains but am very reluctant due to the chances of losing nipple sensation. This is a huge erogenous zone for me, and I can't seem to find any statistics regarding this particular complication/side-effect. Any advice/personal experience would be much appreciated.

Doctor Answers 13

Stats on Loss of Nipple Sensitivity After Breast Reduction

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In medical studies the loss of sensitivity of the nipple/areolar complex following breast reduction surgery is around 7%. But the larger the reduction or removed amount can effect these %'s to the worse side. Seek in person opinions. But I always tell my patient it is a chance that it will happen, so if you want a 100% guarantee than do not do the operation. Also, if pre op the sensitivity is low than the chances really increase for having numbness. 

Good surgical technique preserves nipple sensation after breast reduction.

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Loss of sensation should be very rare. Occasionally we see temporary reduction in feeling. During surgery, nerves to the nipples need to be preserved.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

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.

What are the stats on loss of nipple sensitivity after breast reduction surgery?

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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 can take up to a year for sensation to return. It may take up to a year to regain sensation. After that time, chances are small that it will improve.

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 28 reviews

Breast Reduction & Nipple Sensitivity

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There are many different ways to perform a breast reduction. The risk for loss of feeling to the nipple areolar complex differs, to some degree, from one technique to the next. There are steps your surgeon can take to help minimize the risk of loss of sensitivity to the nipple. The incidence of loss of nipple sensitivity probably varies, depending on the procedure, from 10-50%.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 133 reviews

Decreased Nipple Areola Sensation Occurs in 5-15% of Breast Reduction Patients

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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 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 the symptoms associated with breast hypertrophy, are the priority. In some patients, nipple areola sensation is very important. Since there is no way to guarantee normal sensation, patients in this group should proceed cautiously with breast reduction.

Nipple Sensation and Breast Reduction

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With all surgeries come possible risks and complications. Unfortunately with breast reduction surgery loss of nipple sensation is a possibility, although the chances are low, between 4% and 15%, it must be considered as a possibility. Good luck.

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Breast Reduction and Loss of Sensation?

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Thank you for the question.
Breast reduction surgery is one of the most patient pleasing operations we perform for patients with symptomatic breast hypertrophy. Of course, like with any operation, patients and surgeons must weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks/ complications associated with the procedure.
A loss of nipple/areola sensation rate of 5 to 15% with  breast reduction surgery is probably accurate.
I hope this helps.

Loss of nipple or sensation

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The loss of sensation is certainly more common. I think studies report abot a 15% permanent change in sensation long term. AS for nipple loss, this is very rare.

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

Nipple sensation after breast reduction

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The preservation of nipple sensation depends a lot on the breast reduction technique.  The "free nipple graft" procedure where the nipple is removed and then sewn back on as a full thickness skin graft always leaves the nipples numb.  I reserve this procedure for ladies who are gigantic and really, really saggy who want to go quite small and don't care about their sensation.  I rarely do a free nipple graft. 

The procedures that carry the nipple on breast tissue usually preserve the nerves to the nipple but there is no guarantee.  If your nipple nerves are in an unusual location, they could be in harms way.  The surgeon would not know this because they are so small, we don't see them during surgery.  We just stay away from there they are supposed to be.   Complete loss of sensation is rare but you need to decide if it happened to you, would the smaller and less saggy breasts be worth it?  Even if only 3% of patients lose sensation, if it happens to you it might as well be 100%.

You did not mention your weight.  If you are overweight, losing weight will likely reduce the size of your breasts and you could have a breast lift which almost always preserves nipple sensation.

Lisa Lynn Sowder, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 77 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.