breast (nerve supply)

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The breast skin is innervated by the:

  • anterior branches of the 1st to 6th intercostal nerves for medial breast skin
  • lateral branches of the 2nd to 7th intercostal nerves for lateral breast skin
  • 4th intercostal nerve, both anterior and lateral branches for the nipple areola complex with contributions from the 3rd and 5th intercostal nerves

These same cutaneous nerves supply sensory fibres and sympathetic fibres to the mammary gland. However, the secretory functions of the breast are largely controlled by hormones from the ovaries and pituitary.


Ref: (1) Jaspars JJ, Posma AN, van Immerseel AA, Gittenberger-de Groot AC. The cutaneous innervation of the female breast and nipple-areola complex: implications for surgery. Br J Plast Surg 1997;50(4):249-59.

Last reviewed 01/2018