Breast abscesses: evidence-based algorithms for diagnosis, management, and follow-up

Radiographics. 2011 Oct;31(6):1683-99. doi: 10.1148/rg.316115521.


Radiologists who regularly perform breast ultrasonography will likely encounter patients with breast abscesses. Although the traditional approach of surgical incision and drainage is no longer the recommended treatment, there are no clear guidelines for management of this clinical condition. Breast abscesses that develop in the puerperal period generally have a better course than nonpuerperal abscesses, which tend to be associated with longer treatment times and a higher rate of recurrence. The available literature on treatment of breast abscesses is imperfect, with no clear consensus on drainage, antibiotic therapy, and follow-up. By synthesizing the data available from studies published in the past 20 years, an evidence-based algorithm for management of breast abscesses has been developed. The proposed algorithm is easy to follow and has been validated by a multidisciplinary team approach and applied successfully during the past 2 years. Breast abscesses are a challenging clinical condition, and radiologists have a pivotal role in evaluation and follow-up of these lesions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnosis*
  • Abscess / physiopathology
  • Abscess / therapy*
  • Algorithms*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Breast Diseases / physiopathology
  • Breast Diseases / therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drainage
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mammography
  • Mastitis / diagnosis*
  • Mastitis / physiopathology
  • Mastitis / therapy*
  • Needles
  • Patient Care Team
  • Puerperal Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Puerperal Disorders / physiopathology
  • Puerperal Disorders / therapy*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional
  • Ultrasonography, Mammary


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents