Background: Breast abscesses are conventionally treated by incision and drainage. This often requires general anaesthesia and a hospital stay. Non-operative treatment by needle aspiration and oral antibiotics is reported as a viable alternative.
Methods: All patients who presented with breast abscesses and who were assessed by one surgeon between November 1995 and January 1997 were managed using a conservative approach and they are the subjects of this study.
Results: Twenty-one consecutive patients were seen over a period of 26 months. All had non-lactational breast abscesses. Nineteen patients were successfully treated by needle aspiration and antibiotics while two patients required incision and drainage. The mean size of the aspirated abscesses was 3.5 cm (range 1-15 cm) and required an average of 2.4 aspirations (range 1-5). Of those treated by aspiration, three patients developed recurrent abscesses, two of which were successfully managed by repeat aspiration while one patient eventually required surgery.
Conclusions: The majority of non-lactational breast abscesses seen in clinical practice can be treated without surgery by a combination of needle aspiration and antibiotics.