Common Nerve Damage After Mastectomy in Burlington

A mastectomy, a surgical procedure to remove one or both breasts, can potentially lead to nerve damage, particularly to the intercostobrachial nerve. This nerve injury, known as intercostobrachial neuralgia, is one of the most common complications following breast cancer surgery, affecting a significant number of women.

What is the Intercostobrachial Nerve?

The intercostobrachial nerve is a sensory nerve that originates from the second and third intercostal nerves in the chest region. It provides sensation to the upper inner arm, armpit, and the side of the breast. During a mastectomy, this nerve can be stretched, compressed, or even severed, leading to various symptoms and discomfort.

Symptoms of Intercostobrachial Nerve Injury

The signs and symptoms of intercostobrachial nerve injury can vary in severity and duration. Some of the most common manifestations include:

Common Symptoms of Nerve Injury after Mastectomy in Burlington, ON

  • Persistent pain or discomfort in the armpit, inner arm, or breast area
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the affected regions
  • Hypersensitivity or increased sensitivity to touch or temperature changes
  • Burning or stabbing pain radiating down the arm or chest wall
  • Restricted arm movement due to discomfort

Risk Factors and Prevention

While intercostobrachial nerve injury is a potential complication of any mastectomy, certain factors may increase the risk:

Key Risk Factors

  • Axillary lymph node dissection (removal of lymph nodes in the armpit)
  • Radiation therapy to the chest or underarm area
  • Obesity or larger breast size
  • Previous injury or surgery in the chest or armpit region

To minimize the risk of intercostobrachial nerve injury, it is crucial to choose an experienced surgical team and follow post-operative instructions carefully. Proper positioning during surgery and meticulous surgical technique can also help prevent nerve damage.

Treatment Options

If you experience symptoms of intercostobrachial nerve injury after a mastectomy, it is essential to seek professional help. Early intervention can significantly improve outcomes and alleviate discomfort.

Common Treatment Approaches

  • Medication: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, anti-seizure drugs, or antidepressants may be recommended to manage pain and discomfort.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches can help reduce muscle tightness, improve range of motion, and desensitize the affected area.
  • Nerve blocks or injections: In some cases, local anesthetic injections or nerve blocks may provide temporary relief.
  • Surgery: In severe or persistent cases, surgical intervention may be considered to release entrapped nerves or transfer sensory nerves from other areas.

FAQs About Nerve Damage After Mastectomy

How long does intercostobrachial nerve injury typically last?

The duration can vary greatly, with some women experiencing temporary symptoms that resolve within a few months, while others may experience chronic pain or discomfort for years.

Can intercostobrachial nerve injury be prevented?

While it cannot be entirely prevented, the risk can be minimized by choosing an experienced surgical team and following post-operative instructions carefully.

Is physical therapy effective for treating intercostobrachial nerve injury?

Yes, physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing intercostobrachial nerve injury. Specific exercises and techniques can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and promote nerve recovery.

About the Author

PhysioLinks Rehab in Burlington, ON, is a team of highly experienced physiotherapy Burlington experts dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services. With years of expertise in treating post-operative complications, including nerve injuries, PhysioLinks Rehab is committed to helping patients regain their quality of life and achieve optimal recovery after mastectomy or other surgical procedures.

By understanding the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking prompt treatment, women can effectively manage intercostobrachial nerve injury and improve their overall well-being after a mastectomy.

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