ACR Appropriateness Criteria® Evaluation of Nipple Discharge

Expert Panel on Breast Imaging:

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Appropriate imaging evaluation of nipple discharge depends the nature of the discharge. Imaging is not indicated for women with physiologic nipple discharge. For evaluation of pathologic nipple discharge, multiple breast imaging modalities are rated for evidence-based appropriateness under various scenarios. For women age 40 or older, mammography or digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) should be the initial examination. Ultrasound is usually added as a complementary examination, with some exceptions. For women age 30 to 39, either mammogram or ultrasound may be used as the initial examination on the basis of institutional preference. For women age 30 or younger, ultrasound should be the initial examination, with mammography/DBT added when ultrasound shows suspicious findings or if the patient is predisposed to developing breast cancer. For men age 25 or older, mammography/DBT should be performed initially, with ultrasound added as indicated, given the high incidence of breast cancer in men with pathologic nipple discharge. Although MRI and ductography are not usually appropriate as initial examinations, each may be useful when the initial standard imaging evaluation is negative. The American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed annually by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and revision include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer reviewed journals and the application of well-established methodologies (RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation or GRADE) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures for specific clinical scenarios. In those instances where evidence is lacking or equivocal, expert opinion may supplement the available evidence to recommend imaging or treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S138-S153
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • AUC
  • Appropriate Use Criteria
  • Appropriateness Criteria
  • breast MRI
  • breast ultrasound
  • digital breast tomosynthesis
  • ductography
  • mammography
  • nipple discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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