Loss of nipple sensation is a risk of any breast surgery be it an augmentation, lift or reduction.
For breast augmentation, the stated risk for loss of nipple sensation can be as high as 10%. So yes, it is definitely a known, accepted complication and you need to consider this before you have surgery. Let me explain why.
First, permanent nipple sensory loss is NOT related to incision site. More often than not, implants are placed through an incision in the crease under the breast or one on the edge of the areola. You will have some transient numbness wherever I make the incision, but this will go away and is not what gives permanent numbness.
From the incision, we work straight down to the interface of the breast/muscle or under the muscle and make a space for the implant to live. The nerve that gives the central segment of your breast its’ feeling, including your nipple area, runs along your rib cage and comes into the side of your breast from under your arm. So, it is when we are developing the pocket to place your implant that the nerve is at risk. We take specific measures to protect the nerve but understand that most of the time we never see the nerve. It is within the breast tissue and can be stretched, pulled, cauterized, or cut as part of the process. Nerves are very sensitive and will short circuit with even the smallest amount of trauma. And, since we can’t see the nerve, it’s not really feasible to go back and repair the nerve.
Now, if you have surgery and in the first few weeks or months afterwards, your feeling is there but not normal, this will get better! If you are completely numb, we need to wait and see. Chances are it will improve. If you get to 1 year from surgery and you still have no feeling, you are probably one of the 10% statistic.
So think about his before you have surgery. For a lot of women nipple sensation is not a big issue, but if it is for you, it merits consideration before we decide to proceed with surgery.
Lee Corbett, MD
All posts on this blog are authored by Louisville cosmetic breast surgeon Dr. Lee Corbett.