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Breast Abscess Drainage

Last updated April 3, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Breast Abscess Drainage is a minor and common surgical procedure that involves opening and draining an abscess in the female breast.

Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Drainage of Breast Abscess
  • Incision and Drainage of Breast Abscess
  • Mammary Abscess Drainage

What is Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

Breast Abscess Drainage is a minor and common surgical procedure that involves opening and draining an abscess in the female breast.

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

A Breast Abscess Drainage procedure involves the female breast(s).

Why is the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure Performed?

A Breast Abscess Drainage procedure is performed to treat infection and ensure complete drainage.

What are some Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

Antibiotics and abscess aspiration are some alternatives. But if an abscess does not respond to these alternatives then a Breast Abscess Drainage is considered the best option.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

Percutaneous Aspiration under ultrasound guidance is a recent advancement that promises higher success rate, as opposed to Abscess Drainage. However, this procedure is most effective in smaller abscess formations.

What is the Cost of performing the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

The cost of Breast Abscess Drainage procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused by the information regarding Breast Abscess Drainage and on what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist and also recommend another physician, if required

What are some Helpful Resources?




Prior to Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

How is the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure Performed?

  • An incision is made on the breast over the abscess and a sterile instrument is inserted to break open small pockets of pus
  • The pus is allowed to drain; the incision may be enlarged to irrigate the abscess cavity before packing it with wet gauze dressing inside and dry gauze outside
  • The skin is left open and the cavity heals from inside out with wet to dry dressing changes
  • In some cases, loose approximation of skin is performed and a drain is inserted in the abscess cavity and left there till the output is very minimal

Where is the Procedure Performed?

Drainage of Breast Abscess is usually performed in an out-patient (surgery) center facility, a physician’s clinic/office or a hospital. Normally, the person is allowed to go home once the procedure is completed.

Who Performs the Procedure?

The procedure is usually performed by a trained physician, a general surgeon, or an obstetrician and/or gynecologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

The procedure may take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour.

What do you need to tell your Physician before the Procedure?

It is very important to provide the following information to your healthcare provider. This enables your healthcare provider in assessing the risks for the surgical procedure and helps avoid unnecessary complications.

  • Provide a complete list of medications you are currently, taking to your physician. This information is useful for a variety of reasons. For example, it can help your healthcare provider prevent complications due to a drug interaction
  • If you are allergic to any specific medication or food items
  • If you are taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin, herbal supplements, or any other such medications
  • If you or your family members, have a history of bleeding disorders, or if there is a tendency to bleed more than normal
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, chest pains, or have previously suffered from a heart attack
  • If you have ever been diagnosed with blood clots in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or lung (embolism of lung)
  • If you have a history of frequent bone fractures (this may affect bone-healing, if bones are involved as part of your procedure)
  • A list of all previous surgical procedures you have undergone, like for example: Removal of appendix, gallbladder, or any other part, of your body; surgical repair of any body part, such as hernia repair, perforation of bowel wall, etc.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain information related to the overall health status including the medications that are being currently taken
  • Some medications increase a person’s chances of bleeding and it may be recommended to discontinue them for a period of time, before the procedure is performed
  • Blood tests may be performed to determine if there is a bleeding tendency or any other medical conditions that prevents the person from undergoing the procedure
  • Avoid application of any cosmetics, deodorant, or topical medicines on the area, prior to the procedure
  • It is advised to quit smoking and the use of any nicotine based products, prior to the surgery
  • Consumption of alcoholic drinks must also be avoided for a period of time, as instructed
  • For persons suffering from diabetes, it is important that the blood sugar stays within the normal range; if not their diabetologist may have to control blood sugar by recommending insulin and/or a combination of oral medicines
  • The patient must avoid eating or drinking at least 8 hours prior to the surgical procedure, depending on when the procedure is arranged 

A physician will request your consent for the Breast Abscess Drainage procedure using an informed Consent Form.

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for the Breast Abscess Drainage procedure using an informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What Tests are needed, before the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

  • No specific tests are suggested
  • However, some blood tests may be necessary prior to the procedure and the physician shall determine the extent of blood tests required
  • Also, in some cases the physician may request an ultrasound of the breasts, or a mammogram

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your physician are as follows:

  • What is a Breast Abscess Drainage?
  • Can oral medications solve the problem?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is there an emergency?
  • Does the procedure ensure that the abscess formation will not recur?
  • Will I be able to breastfeed after the procedure?
  • Does the procedure require anesthesia to be administered?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any lifestyle restrictions or modifications required, after the procedure is performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

Local anesthesia is administered in most cases. However, rarely the patient may be given general anesthesia. When general anesthesia is necessary, the procedure is usually performed at a hospital surgery facility.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

Since abscess drainage is a less invasive procedure, there is little blood loss involved.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

Bleeding, infection and anesthetic complications are possible during a surgery. However, if the patient suffers from obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, or any chronic ailment, it may increase the risks involved in the procedure.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

At the healthcare facility, generally there is no requirement for any post-procedure care, unless any complications arise. 

After the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

What are the possible Risks and Complications after the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

The possible risks and complications that may arise after a Breast Abscess Drainage procedure are:

  • Infection
  • Breast enlargement
  • Delay in healing
  • Recurrence of abscess

What is the Prognosis after the Surgery?

  • Breast Abscess Drainage often gives excellent results with an immediate decrease in pain on completion of the procedure
  • It has to be noted that the chances of repeated abscess formation are around 50%, which may require further/future medical intervention

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do contact your physician if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Increasing pain, swelling, and redness around the incision site
  • Bleeding and drainage
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

At home, the following post-operative care is recommended, after a Breast Abscess Drainage procedure:

  • Dressing changes must be done as recommended by the physician
  • Complete the course of prescribed medication
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes; wear loose ones
  • Avoid any strenuous activity for a period of about 3 weeks
  • Resume regular/daily activities as early as possible (per your physician’s instruction)

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

It may take about 4-6 weeks for the patient to completely recover from the procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

A Breast Abscess Drainage procedure does not involve the surgical removal of any tissue.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Breast Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers. 

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The outpatient facility, physician’s office or hospital
  • A family doctor, a surgeon, an obstetrician and/or gynecologist
  • An anesthesiologist (if anesthesia was administered)
  • A pathologist (if the tissue was sent for analysis) 

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before Breast Abscess Drainage procedure is performed.

Thanks and Gratitude:

We sincerely acknowledge and thank Dr. Douglas J. Jones for reviewing the article. His valuable input and feedback has helped enrich the contents of this article.

Douglas J. Jones, MD FACS
Board Certified General Surgeon and Faculty Member
University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
506 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 22, 2013
Last updated: April 3, 2018