Some patients experience a loss of sensation at the incision site after plastic surgery. For most patients, loss of sensation lasts for a few days or weeks during the healing process. In rare cases, loss of sensation is permanent. Minor procedures that require only superficial incisions are less likely to result in prolonged numbness, while more invasive procedures may result in permanent loss of feeling.
Some patients describe this loss of sensation as total numbness, while others say that the regular sensation (or expected sensation of pain) is replaced by a tingling feeling, not unlike the feeling many people experience when a limb falls asleep.
No matter where the surgery occurs, incisions are likely to cut through or damage the nerves. The damage to these nerves may cause significant loss of sensation until the body has the chance to restore the nerves to their previous, healthy state. How long this takes will depend on how serious the damage is and the individual’s own rate of healing.
If a patient smokes or drinks alcohol too soon after surgery, they are more likely to experience a loss of feeling at the incision site for a longer period of time. This is because tobacco use and alcohol consumption reduces necessary oxygen and nutrients in the blood, slowing wound closure, nerve regeneration, and the overall healing process. This is very dangerous, as it indicates that the surgical area is not healing.
How Common is Loss of Sensation After Surgery
Numbness is a fairly common side effect of surgery. The creation of an incision can result in numbness due to temporary damage to sensory nerves. This complete loss of sensation or tingling at the incision site is common in all types of plastic surgery, from rhinoplasty to liposuction. It will be more common in the more extreme procedures, such as tummy tuck, as they have a more traumatic effect on the body.
The body, however, does not simply stop feeling. Loss of sensation will almost always be the result of damaging a nerve. It may also be a sign of infection, as the infection can block transmission of pain signals to the brain. In the case of breast implants, many women report that they lose the sensation in their nipples when the incision is made around the areola.
When Will Full Sensation Return?
When sensation returns depends entirely on how traumatic the surgery is and the area of trauma. Very invasive surgeries, like tummy tuck, may result in prolonged numbness, both at the incision site and the entire abdominal area. The skin contains millions of nerves, which can be very easily damaged by this kind of surgery.
Sensation at an incision site should return within a few weeks, depending on the location, while other areas may take months to return to their former sensitivity. In general, if sensation does not return within one year of the surgical procedure, it is unlikely that sensation will return at all.
To schedule a plastic surgery consultation, contact Dr. Mark Deuber.