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

Erica Anderson Headshot

Erica Anderson MD

297 Herndon Parkway Suite 101
Herndon, VA 20170

(703) 481-0002

Behzad Parva Headshot

Behzad Parva MD

224-D Cornwall Street, NW Suite 300
Leesburg, VA 20176

(703) 777-7477

Gloria Duda Headshot

Gloria Duda MD

6845 Elm Street Suite 708
McLean, VA 22101

(703) 893-1111

Irfan Galaria Headshot

Irfan Galaria MD

24805 Pinebrook Road Suite 105
Chantilly, VA 20152

(703) 327-3174

Roberta Gartside Headshot

Roberta Gartside MD

1300 Chain Bridge Road The Magassey Building
McLean, VA 22101

(703) 204-2706

Michael Brown Headshot

Michael Brown MD

45155 Research Place Suite 125
Ashburn, VA 20147

(703) 726-1175

Martin Morse Headshot

Martin Morse MD

10132 Colvin Run Road Suite F
Great Falls, VA 22066

(703) 757-6190

Haven Barlow Headshot

Haven Barlow MD

802 Bestgate Road Suite A
Annapolis, MD 21401
Logo

Patient Care Center