Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


4-minute read

What is a microdochectomy?

Milk ducts are small tubes in the breast that connect the breast tissue to the nipple. Fluid travels along the ducts and is discharged from the nipple.

A microdochectomy is a procedure to remove one or more of the milk ducts from your breast. It is usually performed to diagnose and treat a problem that causes a continued leak of fluid from a nipple.

Total duct excision is removal of a disc of duct tissue from behind the nipple. It is also performed to diagnose and treat a problem that causes a continued leak of fluid from the nipple.

An illustration of the cross-section of a right breast.
Cross-section of a right breast.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your nipple should not leak any more.

If you do have pre-cancerous cells, your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for you as soon as possible.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

A microdochectomy has been suggested as the best way to diagnose and treat your problem.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic and takes about 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a cut on the line of the areola (the darker area around your nipple). If you are having a microdochectomy, they will remove the duct and any growth from underneath your nipple. If you are having a total duct excision, your surgeon will remove a disc of duct tissue from behind the nipple.

How can I prepare myself for the operation?

If you smoke, stopping smoking now may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.

Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

If you have not had the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, you may be at an increased risk of serious illness related to COVID-19 while you recover. Speak to your doctor or healthcare team if you would like to have the vaccine.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • continued lumpiness under your wound
  • continued pain under the scar
  • continued leak of clear or bloody fluid from your nipple
  • loss or change of nipple sensation and/or reaction to cold or touch
  • change in nipple shape
  • reduced ability to breastfeed
  • damage to the blood supply to the nipple

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

You should be able to return to work after 3 to 7 days.

You should be able to return to normal activities after 5 to 10 days.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

The healthcare team will arrange for you to come back to the clinic within 3 weeks. The duct, and any tissue that your surgeon removed, will have been examined under a microscope. Your surgeon will tell you the results, check your wound, and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.


A microdochectomy or total duct excision involves removing a milk duct (or disc of milk ducts) from your breast. The procedure will stop a continued nipple discharge and help find out what is causing the discharge.


The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright ©

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Mastitis, blocked duct & breast abscess | Raising Children Network

If you think you have a blocked milk duct, you can treat it at home to start with. If you think you have mastitis or a breast abscess, see your GP as soon as possible.

Read more on website

Mastitis | Australian Breastfeeding Association

If your breast is sore, lumpy, hot and red and you have a fever, you may have mastitis.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Breast engorgement

Engorgement is when your breasts are overfull with milk and fluids. It is usually temporary and will lessen to adjust to your baby's needs.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Engorgement and mastitis -

If you experience difficulties with breastfeeding seek the advice of a midwife, lactation consultant, the Australian Breastfeeding Association or your doctor.

Read more on myDr website


Mastitis occurs when breast tissue gets inflamed, usually due to a blocked milk duct caused by breastfeeding. Mastitis can lead to infection.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples

Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are common problems when you’re breastfeeding. Learn more about attachment issues, causes and treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Breastfeeding – mastitis and other nipple and breast problems - Better Health Channel

Mastitis affects some breastfeeding women and may be caused by blocked milk ducts or a bacterial infection.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Breast Cysts | Common Conditions | Jean Hailes

Women may experience a number of common breast conditions in their lifetime. Learn more about cysts, lumps, mastitis and when to see your doctor.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Newborns breastfeeding & bottle-feeding | Raising Children Network

All you need to know on breastfeeding and bottle-feeding newborns. Get articles, videos and resources on breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, mastitis and more.

Read more on website

Breast abscesses -

A breast abscess is a collection of pus in the breast usually caused by bacterial infection. Find out the symptoms of a breast abscess from

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.