Breast sensibility after mastectomy and implant-based breast reconstruction

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2019 Jun;175(2):369-378. doi: 10.1007/s10549-019-05137-8. Epub 2019 Feb 12.


Purpose: The aim of the study is to evaluate the level of sensible impairment after mastectomy or implant-based breast reconstruction (IBBR). In addition, factors influencing breast sensibility were evaluated.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed in Maastricht University Medical Center between July 2016 and August 2018. Women with unilateral mastectomy with or without IBBR were included. Objective sensory measurements were performed using Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments. Their healthy breast served as control, using a paired t test. Differences between mastectomy with and without IBBR were evaluated using the independent t test. Linear regression was performed to evaluate the association between patient characteristics on breast sensibility. The paired t test was used to evaluate in which part of the breast the sensibility is best preserved.

Results: Fifty-one patients were eligible for inclusion. Sixteen patients underwent IBBR after mastectomy. Twenty-three patients received radiotherapy and 35 patients received chemotherapy. Monofilament values were significantly higher in the operated group compared to the reference group (p < 0.001). Linear regression showed a statistically significant association between IBBR and objectively measured impaired sensation (p = 0.008). After mastectomy, the cutaneous protective sensation is only diminished. After IBBR, it is lost in the majority of the breast. The medial part of the breast was significantly more sensitive than the lateral part in all operated breasts (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: IBBR has a significantly negative impact on the breast sensibility compared to mastectomy alone. This study shows that the protective sensation of the skin in the breast is lost after IBBR. To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the level of sensible impairment after mastectomy or IBBR. More research is necessary to confirm these results.

Keywords: Alloplastic breast reconstruction; Breast cancer; Implant-based breast reconstruction; Mastectomy; Sensibility.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast / surgery
  • Breast Implants
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty*
  • Mastectomy / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Skin / physiopathology*