Sensory recovery of the breast after innervated and non-innervated autologous breast reconstructions: A systematic review

J. Beugels, A. J.M. Cornelissen, Aldona Spiegel, E. M. Heuts, A. Piatkowski, R. R.W.J. van der Hulst, S. M.H. Tuinder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background The sensory recovery of the reconstructed breast is an undervalued topic in the field of autologous breast reconstruction. This systematic review aimed to evaluate the available literature on the sensory recovery of the breast after innervated and non-innervated autologous breast reconstructions and to assess the possible benefits of sensory nerve coaptation compared to spontaneous reinnervation of the flap. Methods A comprehensive literature search was conducted in PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Library to identify all eligible studies regarding the sensory recovery of all types of innervated and non-innervated autologous breast reconstructions. Results The search yielded 334 hits, of which 32 studies concerning 1177 breast reconstructions were included. The amount of heterogeneity between the studies was high, which made the pooling of data difficult. The studies indicated that spontaneous reinnervation of autologous breast reconstructions occurred to a variable extent, depending on how and when it was measured. Despite these variable results, the sensory recovery of innervated flaps, however, was superior, started earlier and gradually improved over time with a higher chance of approaching normal values than non-innervated flaps. There is a lack of studies that assess the return of erogenous sensation and quality of life. Conclusion The current evidence shows that nerve coaptation results in superior sensory recovery of the reconstructed breast compared to spontaneous reinnervation of the flap. This review illustrates that more standardised, high-quality studies with adequate sample sizes are needed to objectively evaluate the sensory recovery of the breast after autologous breast reconstructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1241
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery
Volume70
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Keywords

  • Breast reconstruction
  • Breast sensation
  • Nerve coaptation
  • Sensory recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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