Breast sensibility in bilateral autologous breast reconstruction with unilateral sensory nerve coaptation

Ennie Bijkerk, Sander M. J. van Kuijk, Arno Lataster, Rene R. W. J. van der Hulst, Stefania M. H. Tuinder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Patient satisfaction after breast reconstruction is dependent on both esthetics and functional outcomes. In an attempt to improve breast sensibility, a sensory nerve coaptation can be performed. The aim of this study was to objectify the sensory recovery in patients who, by chance, underwent bilateral autologous breast reconstruction with one innervated and one non-innervated flap. It must be emphasized that the intention was to coaptate the sensory nerves on both sides. Methods The cohort study was carried out in the Maastricht University Medical Center between August 2016 and August 2018. Patients were eligible if they underwent bilateral non-complex, autologous breast reconstruction with unilateral sensory nerve coaptation and underwent sensory measurements using Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments at 12 months of follow-up. Sensory outcomes were compared using t tests. Results A total of 15 patients were included, all contributing one innervated and one non-innervated flap. All patients had a follow-up of at least 12 months, but were measured at different follow-up points with a mean follow-up of 19 months. Sensory nerve coaptation was significantly associated with better sensation in the innervated breasts and showed better sensory recovery over time, compared to non-innervated breasts. Moreover, the protective sensation of the skin can be restored by sensory nerve coaptation. Conclusions The study demonstrated that sensory nerve coaptation leads to better sensation in the autologous reconstructed breast in patients who underwent bilateral breast reconstruction and, by chance, received unilateral sensory nerve coaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-610
Number of pages12
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Sensory nerve coaptation
  • Autologous breast reconstruction
  • Breast cancer
  • Sensation
  • Perforator flap
  • DIEP
  • TRAM

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