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Monday, May 11, 2009

Using Ultrasound Technology to Identify Lactation Problems


The Art of Breastfeeding advocates that breastfeeding is best for baby, mother, father, and society. Nevertheless, some women will encounter difficulties with breastfeeding due to either mechanical or behavioral problems as outlined in the book- what about them?
Mechanical breastfeeding problems can involve the breast itself including engorgement, mastitis, or other situations. The International Breastfeeding Journal recently published an article, dated April 29, 2009, on the effective use of ultrasound technology to identify breast problems while lactating. The title of the article was Ultrasound Imaging of the Lactating Breast: Methodology and Application.
The article points out the problems of using Mammography or Galactography to analyze breast/lactation problems. In the first case, increased glandular tissues and secretion of breast milk during lactation make radiographs difficult to interpret accurately. Furthermore, Galactography – which involves injecting contrast material into the duct orifices of the breast nipple- offers only limited information / views of the ductal system decreasing its usefulness. Also, Galactography; which injects foreign "dyes" into the breast; increases the possibility of breast infection. Previously, Ultrasounds weren't any more helpful for investigating lactating breast complications. Increased breast densities and accumulation of the milk during lactation rendered the older ultrasound images useless. Today however, improved ultrasound image resolution makes it possible to identify breast problems -even for lactating women.
The article cited many interesting facts that I thought you might be interested in reading. For example, recent breast research has revealed the following :
1. Many women may have far fewer main breast ducts than previously thought- most text books cite that women normally have at least fourteen.
2. Furthermore, dissections of breasts of women who had died while breastfeeding did not support previous assumptions made about the lactiferous sinus ; rather, the dissections revealed that the ductal branches merge into one main collecting duct very close to the nipples.
3. Milk ducts only distend at the time of milk ejection accommodating the transport of milk to the infant rather than storing milk for removal.
4. These new findings provide clarity to the operation, anatomy, and purpose of the various parts of the breast. You may wonder why this type of information is important. It is important that the various pathways of breast milk be identified and understood in order to accurately assess lactating breast problems. Furthermore, this information is necessary when reading and interpreting mammograms or ultrasounds; this furthers disease identification and resolution of breast problems. In the next several blogs about ultrasounds, you will read how ultrasound technology has helped identifty problems of the breast during lactation.

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