Nine days after Brooke gave birth to her daughter, Abby, she developed pain in her right breast. She says she noticed a small cut, but she didn’t think much of it. Then, Brooke developed a high fever, and the bottom of her breast became extremely red, so she went to see a doctor.
Brooke was diagnosed with mastitis, which is an infection in the breast and is common when milk ducts get clogged while women are breast-feeding. After staying in the hospital a few days, Brooke was sent home with oral antibiotics and advised to continue to pump to keep the milk flowing and the ducts from becoming clogged.
But Brooke's fever spiked to 104 degrees. Doctors found that two abscesses, about the size of quarters, had formed on her breast and had to be drained of fluid. Days later, two more abscesses formed, surrounding her nipple. Doctors told Brooke she needed to have surgery to remove the abscesses, because she could become septic.
The Doctors sends Brooke to see plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon for a consultation to make sure her breast is healing properly and to find out if there is anything that can be done about the appearance of her breast. Dr. Ordon found that Brooke still had open wounds and exposed ducts on her breast.
But, Dr. Ordon says, "As things heal, there’s always something we can do to improve the way that breast looks.”
After the consultation, Brooke reports that she’s feeling better, though she’s still taking pain medication and says she has a few more weeks of healing.
Dr. Ordon says the acute infection has cleared up, but there was some loss of skin from the surgery, especially below the nipple. He says the wounds should heal better than you might expect and he doesn't think that Brooke will need a skin graft to replace the lost skin.
OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton explains that mastitis usually starts with a crack or fissure in the nipple, which can introduce bacteria into the blood vessels that supply the breasts and can spread throughout the body. If left untreated, mastitis can lead to abscesses. While the complications that Brooke experienced are rare, mastitis occurs in about 10 percent of breast-feeding women.
“It’s not a reason not to breast-feed, because you are afraid of getting mastitis,” Dr. Ashton says.
Common symptoms of mastitis include:
Dr. Ashton says the treatment for mastitis is to continue breast-feeding.
“Most cases of mastitis respond to warm soaks, continuing to empty the breasts and oral antibiotics,” she says.
The Doctors surprise Brooke with a Snap therapy system to help her wounds heal more quickly. Once the wounds have healed, surgeons at Osceola Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery have agreed to see her for a consultation and to perform a breast reconstruction, if needed, free of charge.