Background. When a subareolar breast abscess (SBA) is incised and drained, an extraordinarily high frequency of recurrence is noted. Methods. To develop a pathogenesis-based treatment plan, 24 women with a total of 84 abscesses were monitored. Results. In nine women SBA was under the left areola, under the right, in 7 and in eight the SBA occurred either simultaneously or sequentially under both areolae. In 11 of 24 patients a chronic lactiferous duct fistula also existed. In four of 24 patients four SBAs were treated with antibiotics alone; all recurred. In 16 of 24 patients initial treatment was incision and drainage plus antibiotics; all recurred. When the abscess plus the plugged lactiferous duct was excised, there were no recurrences; however, in four patients a new abscess in a different duct occurred, which was treated by en bloc resection of all subareolar ampullae, without further recurrence. Patients with a fistulous tract had the fistula, its feeding abscess, and its plugged lactiferous duct excised, without recurrence. In first time SBA the organism was usually staphylococcus; in recurrences mixed flora was isolated. Pathologic findings ranged from squamous metaplasia with keratinization of lactiferous ducts to chronic abscess. Conclusions. The cause of SBA is plugging of lactiferous duct within the nipple by keratin. To prevent recurrence the abscessed ampulla with its plugged proximal duct needs excision.
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