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Women’s health centre

Treating an abscess

BMJ Group Medical Reference

An abscess is when pus collects in a part of your body and forms a hard lump. If you have an abscess in your breast you’ll need treatment with antibiotics for the infection. And your abscess will have to be drained to get rid of the pus. [5] It is important that an abscess is drained, as it may not heal with antibiotic treatment alone.

If your breast abscess is small, doctors will probably be able to drain it by putting a needle into the abscess and drawing out the pus. They will usually use ultrasound to help them get the needle in the right place. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic before the procedure, so you shouldn't feel any pain while the abscess is being drained.

After the pus has been drained the needle is removed and a dressing will be put over the area. You won’t need to stay in hospital for this procedure. But you’ll need to come back to make sure all the pus has been drained.

In one study, nearly all women (97 in 100 women) with a breast abscess due to mastitis only needed to have the abscess drained with a needle once. [11] But about 2 in 100 women needed to go on to have surgery to drain the abscess.

If you have surgery to drain an abscess, a small cut is made in your breast. A tube is then inserted into the abscess and left in place until all the pus has drained out. You might need this treatment if you have a big abscess, or if treatment with a needle hasn't worked. [6] You might have this treatment using just a local anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic, depending on the size of your abscess.

Surgery usually takes about 12 days to heal, compared with about six days for draining an abscess with a needle. [12] You’re also more likely to have a scar if you have surgery.

You can usually continue to breastfeed normally while you are being treated for an abscess. [6] This includes using the breast with the abscess. But if pus leaks into the breast milk you will need to use a pump to drain the milk and throw this away. [9] Your doctor will be able to tell you if you can breastfeed with the affected breast.

Glossary

antibiotics

These medicines are used to help your immune system fight infection. There are a number of different types of antibiotics that work in different ways to get rid of bacteria, parasites, and other infectious agents. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

general anaesthetic

You may have a type of medicine called a general anaesthetic when you have surgery. It is given to make you unconscious so you don't feel pain when you have surgery.

infection

You get an infection when bacteria, a fungus, or a virus get into a part of your body where it shouldn't be. For example, an infection in your nose and airways causes the common cold. An infection in your skin can cause rashes such as athlete's foot. The organisms that cause infections are so tiny that you can't see them without a microscope.

local anaesthetic

A local anaesthetic is a painkiller that's used to numb one part of your body. You usually get local anaesthetics as injections.

For more terms related to Mastitis

Citations

For references related to Mastitis click here.
Last Updated: May 21, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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