The ducts that take milk produced by the milk-producing lobules in the breast are called 'lactiferous ducts'. Occasionally there can be discharge from the nipple, which may be coloured, clear or bloodstained. Although most nipple discharge is benign, it can be a symptom of cancer and should be investigated.
Breast Duct Surgery, or Microdochectomy, is the surgical removal of a lactiferous duct. Normally it is possible to identify prior to surgery the milk duct that is blocked – it is relatively straightforward to remove this one duct. The benefits of removing only one duct is that the breast can still produce milk for breastfeeding. In some cases, especially where multiple ducts are involved or it is not possible to identify the one discharging duct, total duct excision may be necessary. This is generally not recommended in younger patients due to the fact that it prevents breastfeeding from the affected breast, but is sometimes necessary in older patients (i.e. over 50 years of age) where multiple ducts are likely to be affected.
Generally disease-causing discharge is only a few centimetres behind the nipple (or closer) and so tissue is removed around the affected duct behind the nipple.
The operation takes approximately 30-40 minutes under a general anaesthetic. After the operation there may be some loss of sensation in the nipple if any nerves have been affected (this occurs in less than one in three procedures) and there may also be some bruising or swelling, but this does not happen in all cases.