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The female breast contains tube-like structures called ducts. When a woman is breastfeeding, these ducts bring milk from the milk-producing glands to the area around the nipple. This allows the milk to flow from the breast to the infant.

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A ductogram is a test to create images of the breast ducts. It is done with a mammogram and special contrast dye.

Reasons for Procedure

A ductogram is done to look for the cause of abnormal discharge from the nipples.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Adverse reaction to the contrast dye
  • Injury to the duct
  • Breast infection
  • Pain

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Before the ductogram, your doctor may:

  • Do a physical exam
  • Order tests, such as a mammogram and blood tests
  • Ask you about your medical history
  • Ask you about the medications that you take, including any over-the-counter products, herbs, and supplements

In the days leading up to the procedure, your doctor will ask you to avoid squeezing any discharge from the nipple. It’s important that there is discharge during the ductogram.

On the day of the ductogram:

  • Be sure to tell the staff if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Eat and drink as usual. If you normally take medication, you can do this as well.
  • Do not apply deodorant, talcum powder, lotion, or perfume near your breasts or under your arms.
  • Wear comfortable clothing so you can easily remove your shirt.

Description of the Procedure

There are different techniques to do this procedure. In general, you will be asked to lie on your back. The nipple area will be cleaned. Then the breast will be squeezed to release discharge. This will help your doctor determine which duct the discharge is coming from. A small, flexible tube will be inserted into the milk duct. The contrast dye will be injected through this tube. X-ray images will be taken of the breast after the contrast material is injected. Lastly, the cannula will be removed and a small bandage or pad will be placed over the nipple.

How Long Will It Take?

30-60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

You may feel some discomfort during the procedure.

Post-procedure Care

You will be able to go home after the ductogram. You can resume your normal activities. Leave the bandage or pad on since the contrast dye may leak out of the duct.

Talk to your doctor about the results. Your doctor may ask for other tests or procedures if there are any abnormal areas.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you:

  • Notice any other changes in your breast, such as thickening or a lump
  • Develop any other symptoms, including a possible allergic reaction to the contrast dye
  • Develop signs of infection such as heat, swelling, pain, fever, or chills

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Office on Women’s Health

Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America

Canadian Resources

Health Canada

Women's Health Matters


Breast cancer overview. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed June 11, 2013.

Breast ductography. Radiopaedia website. Available at: Accessed June 11, 2013.

Ductography: How to and what if? RadioGraphics. 2001;133-150.

Galoctography (ductography). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed June 11, 2013.