Breast abscesses in lactating women: evidences for ultrasound-guided percutaneous drainage to avoid surgery

Emerg Radiol. 2019 Oct;26(5):507-514. doi: 10.1007/s10140-019-01694-z. Epub 2019 Jun 1.


Background: Surgical incision with drainage remains the first-line therapy recommendation for breast abscesses greater than 5 cm.

Purpose: To determine recovery with ultrasound guided (US-guided) procedures for treatment of lactational breast abscesses without surgical incision for drainage.

Material and methods: Institutional review board approval and written informed patient consent were obtained for this retrospective study. From May 1, 2009, to June 1, 2018, 92 consecutive women (mean age 30 years, range 18-45) with 105 abscesses were treated with oral antibiotics and US-guided percutaneous drainage under local anesthesia. A total number of 202 US-guided procedures were performed. Three techniques were used: needle aspiration (diameter 18 to 14G), pigtail catheter insertion (diameter 5 to 7F), and/or vacuum-assisted biopsy/aspiration (diameter 10G). When using needle aspiration or pigtail catheter, a saline irrigation of the cavity was performed according to pus viscosity.

Results: The median diameter of abscesses was 4.5 cm (range 1-15), 82/105 (78%) were larger than 3 cm and 40/105 (38%) larger than 5 cm. US-guided management was successful for 101/105 (96%; 95% CI, (91-99%)) abscesses regardless the size. After the first round of procedures, 49/105 (47%) abscesses were recovered, 56/105 (53%) needed more than one drainage with a median number drainages of 2.6 (2-6). In 4/105 cases (4%), women underwent additional surgery under general anesthesia. By excluding abscesses which occurred in the weaning phase (n = 17), breastfeeding carried on for 68/75 (91%) women.

Conclusion: Unlike previous studies, US percutaneous guided management of lactational abscesses is effective even for abscesses greater than 5 cm and allows continued breastfeeding.

Keywords: Abscess; Breast; Drainage; Lactation; Ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnostic imaging
  • Abscess / therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Diseases / therapy*
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional*