Plastic surgery achieves its dramatic and age-defying transformations by cutting and tightening the skin. Incisions can lead to a temporary loss of sensation as the skin heals and nerve pathways regenerate.
How long until the skin regains sensation after plastic surgery? What do these skin changes feel like? Here’s what to expect after your procedure.
What Causes Changes to Skin Sensations After Plastic Surgery?
Your body is a network of nerves, communicating sensation from the many parts of your body to your brain. Any time your skin experiences a wound, it can disrupt this network. It takes time for these communication pathways to rebuild and regenerate after surgery.
Healing occurs at different speeds for each patient. The extent of your surgery and how quickly you heal will impact the severity of sensation loss and how quickly the skin recovers. Smoking reduces oxygen in the blood and slows the healing process. Smoking too soon after surgery can lead to lasting complications.
What Do These Changes Feel Like?
Different patients experience various sensation changes. Numbness is very common. Some patients experience a complete loss of feeling. Other patients report tingling around the incision site. Often, patients compare the feeling of numbness after surgery to the feeling you experience when an arm or leg falls asleep.
Sensation may return abruptly, or it could come back gradually. Many patients experience zapping and tingling sensations as the nerves heal and sensation returns.
When Will the Skin Regain Sensation After Plastic Surgery?
Generally, the more invasive a surgery, the more likely you are to experience sensation loss. Sensation loss typically lasts longer after more invasive surgeries. While feeling normally returns after surgery, some patients will experience a permanent loss or change in skin sensation.
- Breast augmentation and breast lift: Feeling typically returns to the breast skin within two to three months of breast augmentation or breast lift surgery. It can take longer for nipple sensation to return. Incisions around the nipple are more likely to cause long-lasting or permanent changes to breast sensation than incisions located under the breast or under the arm.
- Breast reduction: Many of our breast reduction patients start to get sensation back within two to three months after surgery. Changes in nipple sensitivity may last longer. If feeling is going to return, it will usually happen in the first year after surgery.
- Breast reconstruction: Breast reconstruction patients often experience many surgeries as part of their cancer treatment. These extensive and repeated surgeries can lead to a complete loss of feeling after breast reconstruction surgery. Some patients will get some sensation back, but many will have permanent changes.
- Liposuction: Loss of sensation is rare after liposuction. Most patients return to normal feeling within a few weeks of surgery.
- Tummy tuck: Changes to the skin sensation are common after a tummy tuck and usually improve within two to six months after surgery. Typically, sensation changes along the scar line and between the scar and the belly button take the longest to resolve.
- Facelift: It is normal to experience sensation changes around facelift incision sites for up to 12 to 18 months. Many patients start to get feeling back about three to six months after surgery, but don’t worry if it takes additional time to return to normal sensation.
If you’re curious about sensation changes after plastic surgery, Dr. Waltzman will be happy to answer any questions. Contact us at (562) 448-6100 to schedule a visit to our Long Beach, CA plastic surgery office.