Numbness after Breast Augmentation Surgery
One of the biggest concerns patients have regarding breast augmentation is the possibility of numbness, either of the nipple or the entire breast. While some loss of sensation is not that unusual right after a breast augmentation, the breasts will usually regain feeling over the course of a few months. One study showed that 40 percent of women reported some loss of breast sensation after augmentation surgery. The same study also found that only 2 percent of patients reported persistent numbness. Interestingly, nipple erection is generally not affected, regardless of sensation.
Causes of Breast Numbness after Breast Augmentation
One of the key factors in the occurrence of numbness is the diameter of the breast implants. The wider the implant, the more the surrounding nerves may be stretched, damaged, or even severed. For example, a woman with a 14-cm diameter implant placed in a breast that is only 13 cm in diameter will run a higher risk of breast numbness than a woman with a 15-cm diameter breast who has 14-cm diameter implants. Furthermore, implants of a smaller diameter require less dissection in order to be fitted inside the breast, thus less risk of nerves being damaged or severed.
Breast numbness may also depend on the placement of the implants and whether or not the incisions go through the nipple and surrounding areola. The areolar incision technique may be more likely to cause nipple numbness after surgery. Implants that are placed using the subglandular approach are also associated with a higher incidence of nipple numbness when compared to the submuscular approach.
Regaining Sensation after Breast Augmentation
Breast numbness during the initial healing phase after breast augmentation is common. Patients may experience a certain loss of sensation lasting anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months after surgery. If a patient is still experiencing loss of sensation more than a year after surgery, there is a chance that they will not regain full sensation to the breasts.
There are some massage techniques patients can perform in hopes of regaining sensation in the breasts and nipples. One of the most effective is the use of light touch, in which the patient gently massages the breasts and nipples in a circular motion for a few minutes, several times a day. If the patient massages her own breasts, she is helping to rebuild the neural pathways, thus helping to restore sensation. By the same token, this massage technique can also be used for nipples and breasts that have too much sensation after surgery.
It is important for the patient to work closely with her surgeon to reduce the chances of developing breast numbness. Selecting a board-certified plastic surgeon, the correct size of implant, the proper implant location, and surgical technique can greatly reduce the chances of permanent nerve damage to the breasts and nipples.
Contact Jefferson Plastic Surgery in Philadelphia to schedule a breast augmentation consultation. During the consultation, a surgeon will review the potential risks of surgery, including the possibility of nipple numbness.