How is breast abscess treated?

Treatment for breast abscess begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. An abscess can generally be diagnosed based on your description of symptoms and a physical exam by your health care provider.

Your health care provider may choose to administer tests such as a white blood cell count (WBC). A WBC test will measure the extent of the body’s immune reaction. For women who are breastfeeding, a sample of milk from the affected breast may be tested to determine the organism causing the infection.

Treatments and antibiotics used to treat breast abscess

Broad-spectrum antibiotic medications used to treat breast abscess include:

  • Cephalosporins, such as cefazolin (Cefazil) or cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Erythromycin (E-mycin, E.E.S.)
  • Penicillins, such as penicillin G potassium

There has been a significant rise in the number of community-based (outside of the hospital) antibiotic resistant infections. Your doctor will likely perform laboratory culture testing the help determine the best antibiotic to use for you.

Ultrasound-guided aspiration of the abscess with the use of a sterile needle is the preferred treatment, unless there is overlying skin damage or recurrence of the breast abscess. In this method, ultrasound imaging pinpoints the location and depth of the abscess. A needle is then inserted into the abscess and the pus is drained, or aspirated, through the needle. Ultrasound-guided aspiration is less invasive than surgical drainage.

Surgical drainage of a breast abscess involves making a small cut in the abscess lump. The pus inside the abscess is broken up and washed away. Your health care provider may leave a small drain in the incision to release any additional pus. The incision will be protected with a bandage to keep the area clean and dry. Your incision may not be sewn closed in order to let it heal from the inside to the outside.

What you can do to improve your breast abscess

Follow your health care provider’s instructions and take all antibiotic medications as prescribed. If you are breastfeeding, you can speed your recovery by:

  • Alternating between taking warm showers and applying a cold compress to the affected area
  • Applying a warm, moist compress to the affected area several times a day
  • Maintaining a regular breastfeeding schedule or expressing milk manually with a pump
  • Weaning your baby slowly from breast feeding over several weeks

If you are not breastfeeding, you can speed your recovery by:

  • Engaging in proper hygiene to keep skin healthy
  • Moisturizing nipples to prevent drying or cracking

What are the potential complications of breast abscess?

Complications from breast abscess can include chronic infection, scarring, constant pain, and disfigurement. For women who are breastfeeding, a breast abscess may prevent them from continuing to nurse. Women who are not breastfeeding may experience chronically swollen and painful breasts.

You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of breast abscess include:

  • Chronic infection
  • Chronic pain
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Organ failure
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)

References:

  1. Breast abscess. GOV.UK. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-abscess/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  2. Overcoming breastfeeding problems. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002452.htm.
  3. Breast infection. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002460/.
  4. Dixon JM, Khan LR. Treatment of breast infection. BMJ 2011; 342:d396.
INTRODUCTION

What is breast abscess?

A breast abscess is a painful infection brought on by bacteria. The type of bacteria that most frequently produces breast infection is Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria can enter through a crack in the skin of the breast or on the nipple. The resulting infection, called mastitis, invades the fatty tissue of the breast, leading to swelling and pressure on the milk ducts. An abscess is a hollo... Read more about breast abscessintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of breast abscess?

Symptoms of breast abscess include pain and swelling in the breast, fever and nipple discharge. The severity of the symptoms can vary.

Common symptoms of breast abscess

The most common symptoms of breast abscess include:

CAUSES

What causes breast abscess?

Breast abscess is caused by a bacterial infection. The most common type of bacteria involved in a breast abscess is Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria enter through a scratch in the skin or a tear in the nipple. The resulting infection, called mastitis, invades the fatty tissue of the breast and leads to swelling and pressure on the milk ducts. An abscess, or painful, pus-filled lump, can develop ... Read more about breast abscesscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.