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Am Surg. 1996 Oct;62(10):785-8.

Ductography is a useful technique in evaluation of abnormal nipple discharge.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, UCLA Medical Center, and Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90024, USA.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the utility of ductography, or galactography, in identifying ductal abnormalities in patients presenting with abnormal nipple discharge and to correlate these findings with pathologic results. Abnormal nipple discharge was defined as either bloody or testing positive for occult blood. Milky discharge (galactorrhea) was not evaluated. From July 1992 to June 1994, a total of 43 women presented to the UCLA Breast Center with complaints of abnormal nipple discharge. Mean age of the patients was 54.9 years. All patients underwent technically adequate ductography. A total of 25 patients then underwent 26 excisional biopsies for abnormal ductographic findings. Surgery was usually simplified by the appropriate ductal injection of methylene blue immediately preoperatively. No complications from the procedure were identified. Pathologic entities were correlated with ductographic findings. Ductography identified ductal abnormalities in 33/45 (73%) of ductograms. Filling defects were noted in 19/45 (42%) of ductograms, ductal dilatation in 3/45 (7%), both filling defects and dilatation were noted in 11/45 (24%) of ductograms, and 12/45 (27%) were normal ductograms. Pathologically, ductographic anomalies correlated well with histologic findings. We conclude that ductography is an effective and safe means of identifying ductal abnormalities in patients with abnormal breast discharge. A high incidence of benign intraductal papilloma and a moderate risk of cancer and precancerous lesions were identified. We believe that patients with abnormal nipple discharge should undergo routine ductography and dye localization before surgery.

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