Breast reconstruction often renders the chest skin and nipple areolar complex (NAC) insensate. We propose a new technique of preserving the intercostal nerves during mastectomy and using them to reinnervate the NAC following mastectomy and immediate autologous tissue reconstruction. The technique involves preservation of the lateral intercostal nerves during mastectomy, dissection of the lateral intercostal nerves to length, coaptation of the intercostal nerves to a nerve graft which is then tunneled through the free flap and the distal nerve graft is then coapted to the nerve stumps at the base of the NAC. We performed a retrospective analysis of 14 breasts, which underwent nipple reinnervation during immediate autologous breast reconstruction. Mean age was 49 years (range: 32-61 years). Sensory outcomes, as tested with Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments, were compared to a cohort of breasts that underwent nipple sparing mastectomy without neurotization. Compared to control patients, there was no statistically significant difference (p?=?0.0969) in sensation between pre-operative and post-operative nipple sensation at final follow-up. This proof-of-concept study suggests that immediate re-innervation of the NAC in the setting of immediate breast reconstruction enhances recovery of the NAC sensation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bjps.2020.11.021
View details for PubMedID 33341386