Does the Type of Breast Implant Procedure Impact the Outcome?
This was the question posed in a study conducted by Dr. Mark Mofid, a plastic surgeon in La Jolla, California. The purpose of this study was to find out whether breast implants could affect a woman’s sensitivity in her nipples. Dr. Mofid looked specifically at two popular types of breast implant procedures and their impact. Do women lose sensitivity in their nipples after certain types of breast augmentation? Does sensitivity return once a woman has healed from the procedure? Dr. Mark Mofid shares his findings on this sensitive subject.
Background information on Dr. Mofid’s Study
While breast implants are a very common procedure, only two studies on the subject of nipple sensitivity have ever been published. Dr. Mofid and his colleagues’ primary purpose with this study was to measure the sensory thresholds on and around the nipple area of women who have undergone two different types of breast augmentations: inframammary or periareolar.
The primary difference between these two types of breast implant procedures is where the incision is made. With an inframammary procedure, the incision is made under the breast, in the crease. With a periareolar procedure, the incision is made at the outer edge of the areola.
In this study, Dr. Mark Mofid along with three of his colleagues tested the nipple sensitivity levels of 29 different women. Nine of them were controls that have not had a breast augmentation. Of the remaining 20 women, 13 had undergone inframammary breast augmentation, and seven received periareolar procedures. Dr. Mofid’s team tested each of the women using a Pressure-Specified Sensory Device and compared various sensory thresholds on the nipple and areola of each of the women.
Details of the Study
While new methods for breast implants have surfaced over the years, the two most common types to this day are inframammary and periareolar. However, some plastic surgeons have discouraged women from getting the periareolar procedure and claimed that it could lead to sensitivity loss in the nipple because the incision could damage nerve fibers leading to the nipple area.
Dr. Mark Mofid wanted to put this claim to the test. The testing method for this study, using a Pressure-Specified Sensory Device, was more technologically advanced than the prior two studies. Women in each of the three groups, inframammary, periareolar, and the nonoperative controls, all agreed to a one-hour sensory examination. Prior to the study, an institutional review board approved it and each of the women was informed of the details of the study.
The women were seated in a reclining chair with one breast exposed for testing. The same examiner performed all the tests and a female chaperone was present the entire time. The women were asked to close their eyes so that they could not see the data on the computer screen during testing. According to Dr. Mofid, each woman had a button in her hand that was linked to the computer screen and would press it whenever they perceived the stimulus from the sensory device on their nipple or areola. Each breast was tested and since both sides were highly correlated, the data was averaged.
The nine women who were the nonoperative controls ranged in age from 19 to 38 and had breast sizes between 34A and 36C. The average age of the 20 women who had received breast implants was 33 and most of them had their procedure about 1.12 years before this study was conducted.
Findings of this Breast Augmentation Study
Interestingly, there were no significant differences in the level of sensitivity between the two different types of breast implant procedures. However, Dr. Mark Mofid discovered that there was a notable difference in the level of nipple sensitivity in women who had never had breast implants versus those who did. Dr. Mofid’s study demonstrated that women who have breast implants do tend to lose some sensitivity in their nipples and areola.
A landmark article from 1976 by Courtiss and Goldwyn on nipple sensitivity after breast augmentation claims that most women do regain this sensitivity after about six months. However, Dr. Mark Mofid’s findings dispute this. He did not find any significant differences in women who had recently had the procedure (within the last 3 to 6 months) versus those where time had passed (from 6 months to over 4 years).
Additionally, Dr. Mofid found that women who got implants that were significantly larger in volume had even less sensitivity in the nipple area after the procedure versus those who chose a more average-sized implant.
Dr. Mark Mofid’s study concludes that there is no significant difference in the level of sensitivity after either popular type of breast augmentation — inframammary or periareolar. And plastic surgeons should feel comfortable advising their patients about this when discussing the procedure type. Additionally, Dr. Mofid recommends that plastic surgeons do warn patients wanting very large implants (relative to their breast skin envelopes) that large implants could have an adverse effect on their nipple sensitivity.
About Dr. Mark Mofid
Dr. Mofid is a plastic surgeon located in La Jolla, California — just north of San Diego. He is magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and completed his medical training at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In addition to his San Diego practice, Dr. Mark Mofid serves as an Associate Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at UC San Diego and as a staff surgeon at several hospitals in the San Diego and La Jolla area. He is board certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Additionally, he is a diplomate for the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Mark Mofid is an expert on breast augmentation surgery and has published numerous articles on the subject. He has lectured internationally about different types of breast procedures and even performed live surgery demonstrations around the globe to teach others about his techniques.
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