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Can J Surg. 2009 Dec;52(6):E245-8.

Mammary ductoscopy in the evaluation and treatment of pathologic nipple discharge: a Canadian experience.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ont.



Mammary ductoscopy allows direct visualization of ductal epithelium using a fibreoptic microendoscope. As the first centre in Canada to apply ductoscopy to surgical practice, we report our experience with this technology.


Between 2004 and 2008, 65 women with pathologic nipple discharge underwent ductoscopy before surgical duct excision under general anesthetic. Prospective data collection included cannulation and complication rates, procedure length and lesion visualization rate compared with preoperative ductography, if performed. In addition, we classified the endoscopic appearance according to Makita and colleagues and correlated it with surgical pathology.


It took longer than 6 months to overcome technical problems before the routine use of ductoscopy in the operating room. The ductoscope was easy to use: we achieved cannulation in 63 of 66 breast ducts (95%) and we visualized a lesion in 52 of 63 breast ducts (83%). The mean procedure length was 5.1 minutes, with no complications. Lesions seen on ductography were seen endoscopically 30 of 33 (91%) times. All 3 malignancies were seen: invasive carcinoma in 1 of 62 (1.6%) and in situ disease in 2 of 62 (3.2%) patients. Surgeons found ductoscopy helpful in defining the extent of duct excision. Except for the "polypoid solitary" class, which accurately predicted a papilloma (23/23), we found poor correlation between Makita and colleague's endoscopic classification and final pathology.


Ductoscopy is feasible, safe and practical. Our surgeons routinely use it to identify the location and extent of duct excision without ordering preoperative ductography. Identifying pathology based on the endoscopic appearance is unreliable unless the lesion is solitary and polypoid.

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