American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Member Log In For Medical Professionals
 

Sensory nerve repair at time of DIEP flap breast reconstruction may restore feeling after mastectomy


For patients undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer treatment, loosing feeling is a very common concern. During a mastectomy, nerves supplying the breast with feeling are severed causing loss of sensation. Patients undergoing mastectomy must be informed they can potentially lose all feeling to the chest area, regardless of whether they choose to have breast reconstruction or not. In fact, any breast surgery can lead to some degree of sensation changes.

Patients undergoing mastectomy can regain some sensation over time, but it is usually minimal, if any. However, thanks to advances in surgical techniques, patients choosing to reconstruct their breasts using their own tissue have a higher chance of experiencing return of feeling to the breast over time.

During some types of autologous ("flap") breast reconstruction, an extra procedure known as microneurorrhaphy can be performed. Microneurorrhaphy is the joining together of two nerves using microsurgery. During DIEP flap and SIEA flap surgery for example, a sensory nerve that provides feeling to the lower abdominal skin can be included and transferred with the flap. When the flap is connected to the chest to reconstruct the new breast, this nerve is rejoined to nerves cut during the mastectomy. This extra step provides patients with a higher likelihood of regaining sensation to the new breast, in a shorter amount of time. Microneurorrhaphy can be performed in conjunction with some other types of flap reconstruction too.

"The field of nerve regeneration research has made significant progress over the last decade providing the reconstructive surgeon with improved knowledge of how to reconstruct a body part to not only look like its natural counterpart, but to also function and feel natural to the patient. Although much work remains to be done in this area, restoring feeling to the reconstructed breast is showing some promising results," says Dr. Oscar Ochoa.

Two-time breast cancer survivor Terri Coutee underwent bilateral mastectomy with radiation. She then traveled from Arizona to PRMA in San Antonio, Texas for breast reconstruction. "I am one of these women who has regained sensation and I know others who have had the same fortunate experience," Terri shares. "My surgeon successfully reattached sensory nerves and I have sensation in my right breast after bilateral DIEP flap breast reconstruction. The feeling is below my nipple in a wide area under my breast. It is certainly not the original feeling before mastectomy, but one I so appreciate having! It is worth asking the question during your initial consult to see if sensory nerve reconstruction can be done."

Logo

Surgeons In Your Area

Irfan Galaria Headshot

Irfan Galaria MD

24805 Pinebrook Road Suite 105
Chantilly, VA 20152

(703) 327-3174

James French Headshot

James French MD

5550 Friendship Blvd Suite 130 Center for Plastic...
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

(301) 652-7700

Robert Sigal Headshot

Robert Sigal MD

1825 Samuel Morse Dr.
Reston, VA 20190

(703) 893-6168

Wendy Gottlieb Headshot

Wendy Gottlieb MD

1800 Town Center Drive Suite 418
Reston, VA 20190

(703) 668-9499

Linda Mosely Headshot

Linda Mosely MD

1860 Town Center Drive Suite 310
Reston, VA 20190

(703) 481-1811

Ali Mesbahi Headshot

Ali Mesbahi MD

7601 Lewinsville Road Suite 400
McLean, VA 22102

(703) 287-8277

David Berman Headshot

David Berman MD

14 Pidgeon Hill Drive Berman Cosmetic Surgery & S...
Sterling, VA 20165
Shlomo Widder Headshot

Shlomo Widder MD

8230 Leesburg Pike Suite 630
Vienna, VA 22182

(703) 506-0300

Logo

Patient Care Center