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by Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD

Mastitis is painful inflammation of the breast, usually accompanied by infection.

Fever later in the puerperium is frequently due to mastitis. Staphylococcal species are the most common causes.

Symptoms may include high fever, erythema, induration, tenderness, pain, swelling, and warmth to the touch. Mastitis is different from the pain and cracking of nipples that frequently accompanies the start of breastfeeding.

Breast abscesses are very rare and occasionally caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Diagnosis is clinical.


  • Antistaphylococcal antibiotics

Treatment includes encouragement of fluid intake and antibiotics aimed at Staphylococcus aureus, the most common causative pathogen. Examples are dicloxacillin 500 mg po q 6 h for 7 to 10 days and, for women allergic to penicillin, erythromycin 250 mg po q 6 h. If women do not improve and do not have an abscess, vancomycin 1 g IV q 12 h or cefotetan 1 to 2 g IV q 12 h to cover resistant organisms should be considered. Breastfeeding should be continued during treatment because treatment includes emptying the affected breast.

Breast abscesses are treated mainly with incision and drainage. Antibiotics aimed at S. aureus are often used.

It is not clear whether antibiotics aimed at methicillin-resistant S. aureus are necessary for treatment of mastitis or breast abscess.

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