Nipple discharge in children is uncommon, whereas it is considered a warning sign in adulthood. Hence these patients are referred to the Paediatric Surgeon to assess whether it is necessary to perform aggressive procedures to avoid the risk of malignancy. However, the most common ethology is ductal ectasia, a benign and self-limited process.
We present two cases of a 4 and 5-month-old male patients with bloody nipple discharge. Once malignancy was ruled out by physical examination, ultrasound and cytology, a conservative approach was adopted and the symptoms disappeared over a period of 12 months. Then we conducted a systematic review including pediatric patients (0-16 years) with monosymptomatic bloody nipple discharge.
We found a total of 59 cases published. It is more prevalent in male patients (1,5:1) and 74% present before the age of 12 months. In the articles reviewed several tests are mentioned (secretion culture, cytology, hormonal blood test) but only ultrasound provided useful information, showing altered results in 69.2% of the patients. The classical therapeutic approach was breast surgical resection but in more recent reports ductal ectasia has been shown to be a self-limited pathology. Therefore, conservative treatment is now advocated while surgery is reserved for persistent symptoms or cases where there is a diagnostic doubt. Relapse is infrequent (9.8%).
Conclusions: despite of being a disturbing sign, bloody nipple discharge in infants should be managed conservatively, avoiding aggressive surgical procedures that might cause permanent consequences.
Keywords: Bloody nipple discharge. Nipple secretion. Children. Mammary duct ectasia.