Do You Lose Nipple Sensation After Breast Reduction?

Sensation of the nipple is carried by specialized small branches of the 5th rib (intercostal) nerve. The vast majority of large breasted women have poor to no sensation in the nipple and areola due to chronic traction injuries to these nerves.

You happen to be an exception. The reason you have a hard time getting a figure on numbness after breast reduction is that many women are numb or have reduced sensation before surgery and that potential damage to these nerve branches, if sensation is normal, would depend on what breast reduction technique is used to make the breast smaller.

Any technique removing tissue from the lower and side of the breast risks doing damage to it. In my hands the numbness rate has been extremely low after this operation. But that is not important.

Can I Regain Sensation After Breast Reduction

What is important is that you need to carefully ask yourself are you willing to put up with the pain and limitations of big breasts (which will not get better as you get older) OR are you willing to risk numbness? IF the risk of numbness was 1%, would you accept it? How about 4%? In my opinion, those numbers are quite misleading because if you happen to be in that 1% or 4% group, the rate becomes meaningless because your numbness is 100%.

It is all about potential benefit and risk tolerance. If you are not willing to risk it, do NOT have the surgery. (Peter A. Aldea, MD, Memphis Plastic Surgeon)

A breast reduction is an excellent way to decrease the size and weight of the breasts and can be done with a very aesthetic shape by a surgeon who is a good sculptor.

Permanent numbness is a small risk of any breast surgery and I would quote a 10% risk to my own patients. (Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS, Seattle Plastic Surgeon)

Permamant Or Reduced Sensation In Breasts Or Nipples

Typical patient still has sensation after breast reduction

The vast majority of patients maintain or regain normal sensation to their breast and nipple. There is a common misconception that during brest reduction or breast lift that the nipple and areolar are removed and then resewn to the higher postion.

In fact the areola/nipple is left attached to the breast tissue in almost all cases of reductions. The skin around the areola is simply lifted and retightened and a new opening is made for the areola to come through from behind.

This way we give the best chance for normal senataion afterwards. (Robert B. Pollack, MD, San Diego Plastic Surgeon)

Patients often have increased sensation in the nipple area after breast reduction

There is certainly a 15-20 % chance of losing the sensation to the nipple areolar complex after breast reduction surgery, but in my experience, there is often an increase in sensation.

Losing Nipple Sensation

While rare, it is real and some women are not willing to take this risk. If that is the case then I think you aught to consider the surgery carefully. On the other hand the benefits of a reduction mammoplasty are dramatic.

The biggest complaint I hear after surgery is, “I should have done this sooner.”(Carl W. “Rick” Lentz III, MD, Orlando Plastic Surgeon)

Nipple sensation change post breast reduction depends on technique

The degree of change of nipple sensation depends on the technique used for the reduction, as well as the amount of tissue removed. Approximately 10% of patients have decreased sensation post procedure in my practice. Many patients conversely report an improvement in nipple sensation, and most patients remain unchanged.

Despite the risks of changes in nipple sensation, breast reduction patients are often the most satisfied patients because of the significant improvement in their lifestyle due to the improvement in their back and neck discomfort. (Wilfred Brown, MD, New York Plastic Surgeon)

Loss Of Nipple Sensation

You can have normal sensation after breast reduction and most studies show that the majority of patients do have the same sensation before and after. The problem is that some patients will have loss of sensation and that patient may be you.

If you have a breast reduction you need to be aware that you might have a reduction of sensation. (John P. Stratis, MD, Harrisburg Plastic Surgeon)

WIll I lose nipple sensation after breast reduction?

A lot of patients report decreased sensitivity after breast reduction. What is important to know is that most patients actually do not have a change in their sensation. THe nipple actually receives sensation from nerves that come from the inside and the outside of the breast.

It was previously thought that most of the sensation comes from the outside, but it can come from the inside of the breast as well. Unfortunately, we cannot know if you will be in the 15-20% of patients that do have a change in sensation, so it is an important point to discuss with your surgeon preoperatively. (Sirish Maddali, MD, Portland Plastic Surgeon)


Most patients are able to keep breast sensation after breast reduction. The technique and the nature of the breast before surgery does have something to do with it however. (John P. Di Saia, MD, Orange Plastic Surgeon)

Nipple sensation more likely to be retained than lost after Breast Reduction

You are far more likely to retain nipple sensation following a breast reduction than you are likely to lose it. It is somewhat technique dependent. In my experience, the chance of loss of nipple sensation is 5% or less.

It is more common to experience a period of time when the nipples are unusally sensative for several days following reductions. (John Whitt, MD (retired), Louisville Plastic Surgeon)

There is a slight loss of sensation after breast reduction

Nipple Sensitivity Is A HUGE Issue

10% to 15 % reduction or loss of nipple/areolae sensation. This is an accurate assessment. Make sure you fully understand this issue before proceeding with the breast reduction surgery. (Darryl J. Blinski, MD, Miami Plastic Surgeon)

Numbness after Breast Reduction

The vast majority of women (85% or so) do NOT lose feeling to the breasts and nipples – only a minority do. BUT, as surgeons, we do not know if you are going to be in the 15% who lose sensation or the 85% who do not lose sensation. (Peter A. Aldea, MD, Memphis Plastic Surgeon)

Nipple sensation following breast reduction surgery

The nerves that provide sensation to the breast come up from between the ribs all around the breast. Since a breast reduction involves the removal of breast tissue as well as reshaping it is certainly possible for there to be a change in nipple sensation.

Over Time, As The Body Heals, The Nerves Will Re-establish New Pathways And Sensation Should Return

The procedure is designed to allow for sensation but it is certainly something that can not be guaranteed and must come into the discussion of risks vs. benefits. A thorough discussion with your plastic surgeon will help you make a decision that is correct for you. (Jeffrey Zwiren, MD, Atlanta Plastic Surgeon)

It is unlcear why some lose sensation while others do not. It could be from stretching or the sensory nerves or by actually cutting them. It is not common to see them during surgery. Be that as it may, most people have some sensory changes after surgery that improves in the first 6-8 weeks.

About 85% have normal sensation after one year. (Steven Wallach, MD, New York Plastic Surgeon)

Will You loose nipple sensation with breast lift and/ or reduction

Some Women Don’t Get Back Their Sensation At All

the chance of loosing nipple sensation with breast lift and reduction is low, as long as the nipple-areolar complex is not completely detached and regrafted. Although there is variation in techniques for breast reduction, I usually see that more than 90% of my patient retain most of their nipple sensation with major breast lift or breast reduction in Los Angeles. (Sean Younai, MD, FACS, Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon)

The very large majority of patients retain normal sensation after a breast reduction, but unfortunately you never know ahead of time which group of patients you are in. If loss of sensation would prevent you from doing the reduction then you have your answer – don’t do the surgery.

But the odds are you will have no problem. There is a seldom done procedure reserved for patients with extremely large breasts that requires taking the nipple totally off the breast and then sewing it back on later.

Some Women Lose Sensation After Breast Reduction And Then Get It Back Within A Year Or Later

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)

While most patients have some reduction in nipple sensation after a breast reduction surgery, it is usually temporary and returns in a few days to weeks. However, it some cases the change may be permanent.

Less commonly the nipple may become more sensitive. (Karol A. Gutowski, MD, FACS, Chicago Plastic Surgeon)

Loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction not common

Fortunately, the loss of nipple sensation after breast reduction is uncommon. In my practice, I would estimate that it happens in fewer than 5% of patients. There may be some temporary decreased sensation after the surgery, but this tends to resolve as the swelling resolves.

However, nobody can guarantee that you will have perfect sensation after any breast surgery. You will have to weigh your desire for breast reduction against the (slim, but present) possibility of nipple numbness and decide what is best for you. (Carmen Kavali, MD, Atlanta Plastic Surgeon)

Risk of loss of nipple sensation wtih breast reduction

The risk of loss of nipple sensation wtih breast reduction can vary in studies. And I have seen numbers rangeing from 4 -16%. (Otto Joseph Placik, MD, Chicago Plastic Surgeon)