Pathogenesis-based treatment of recurring subareolar breast abscesses

Surgery. 1995 Oct;118(4):775-82. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6060(05)80049-2.


Background: When a subareolar breast abscess (SBA) is incised and drained, an extraordinarily high frequency of recurrence is noted.

Methods: To develop a pathogenesis-based treatment plan, 24 women with a total of 84 abscesses were monitored.

Results: In nine women SBA was under the left areola, under the right, in 7 and in eight the SBA occurred either simultaneously or sequentially under both areolae. In 11 of 24 patients a chronic lactiferous duct fistula also existed. In four of 24 patients four SBAs were treated with antibiotics; alone; all recurred. In 16 of 24 patients initial treatment was incision and drainage plus antibiotics; all recurred. When the abscess plus the plugged lactiferous duct was excised, there were no recurrences; however, in four patients a new abscess in a different duct occurred, which was treated by en bloc resection of all subareolar ampullae, without further recurrence. Patients with a fistulous tract had the fistula, its feeding abscess, and its plugged lactiferous duct excised, without recurrence. In first time SBA the organism was usually staphylococcus; in recurrences mixed flora was isolated. Pathologic findings ranged from squamous metaplasia with keratinization of lactiferous ducts to chronic abscess.

Conclusions: The cause of SBA is plugging of lactiferous duct within the nipple by keratin. To prevent recurrence the abscessed ampulla with its plugged proximal duct needs excision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / drug therapy
  • Abscess / etiology
  • Abscess / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast / pathology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cutaneous Fistula / surgery
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratins / biosynthesis
  • Mastitis / drug therapy
  • Mastitis / etiology
  • Mastitis / surgery*
  • Metaplasia
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / pathology
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Recurrence
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / surgery
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / complications


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Keratins