Nerve Preservation and Allografting for Sensory Innervation Following Immediate Implant Breast Reconstruction

Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019 Jul 24;7(7):e2332. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002332. eCollection 2019 Jul.


While newer breast reconstruction approaches utilizing nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) techniques and immediate reconstruction can provide excellent aesthetic outcomes, absent postoperative sensation remains a major limitation. Here, we present a novel technique for implant reconstruction combining the latest advances in breast oncologic, reconstructive, and peripheral nerve surgery to improve sensory outcomes. Sixteen women (31 breasts) underwent NSM and prepectoral, direct-to-implant reconstruction. During NSM, careful dissection was performed along the lateral aspect of the breast to preserve any visible intercostal nerves. When nerves could be preserved without compromising oncologic safety, they were left intact within the subcutaneous tissue of the lateral mastectomy skin flap. Nipple/areolar complex (NAC) neurotization was also performed utilizing allograft coapted from transected T4 or T5 lateral intercostal nerves to subareolar nerves identified at the completion of the mastectomy. Of the 12 women (23 breasts) with at least 3 months' follow-up, NAC 2-point discrimination was preserved in 20 breasts (87%), was worse in 2 breasts (9%), and had actually improved in 1 breast (4%). All patients had intact sensation to light touch throughout the majority of, if not their entire, reconstructed breasts. None of the women developed dysesthesias or neuromas. Nerve grafting in conjunction with careful nerve preservation at the time of NSM and implant-based breast reconstruction is safe and effective with a 90% rate of preserved sensation. With longer follow-up, continued return of sensation or possibly improved sensation from baseline can be reasonably anticipated.