Background. Current management of nipple discharge depends on clinical history to distinguish pathologic from physiologic discharge. We investigated whether ductography supplied additional information in the decision for surgery, and/or the localization of pathologic lesion. Methods. A retrospective review of patients with a presenting complaint of nipple discharge seen at the Lynn Sage Breast Center was conducted from January 1995 to June 1996. Medical records, pathology, and ductograms were reviewed. Results. Of 91 patients with nipple discharge, 49 met the criteria for physiologic discharge and 42 had pathologic discharge. Eleven with physiologic discharge had ductograms; none were abnormal. Four of 20 preoperative ductograms were normal but showed intraductal papillomas at the time of surgery; 6 of 20 (30%) had multiple lesions. Four lesions on ductograms did not demonstrate corresponding lesions in the surgical specimen. It is uncertain whether this is due to a missed lesion or a false- positive ductogram. Conclusions. Modern ductography does not reliably exclude intraductal pathology and is not a substitute for surgery in patients with pathologic discharge. Its utility is in identifying multiple lesions or those with lesions in the periphery of the breast.
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