Mondor’s Cords – What are they?
Sometimes, usually a couple of weeks after breast augmentation surgery where a lower breast crease incision was made, a woman will complain of some vertical bands below her breast. Usually, there is no associated discomfort, but occasionally, mild discomfort may be associated with this. Typically, 1 – 4 vertical bands or “Mondor’s cords” are visible extending from below the incision to the lower chest and rarely towards the abdomen. These cords are nothing more than irritated veins just under the skin with some clotted blood inside them. These are not the same as the type of blood clots that can form in the legs and be fatal. This is a benign situation.
If you could magically see though the skin of the chest and abdomen as a person is lying on their back, you would see a web of small veins coursing down the chest to the abdomen. During surgery, when an incision is made in the breast crease, 3 or 4 of these little veins are cut and you can see a little bit of bleeding (not very much) from the cut edges of the vein as they course through the skin. After the veins are cut, the surgeon uses an electrocautery to stop the bleeding. Now that the veins have been cauterized, blood can no longer flow through them. The blood currently lying within the veins will clot and this will cause a mild inflammatory reaction within the veins. Veins that have blood flowing within them are soft and collapsible; you cannot feel them through the skin. However, veins that have hard, clotted blood within them are palpable through the skin and even visible as cords. This is how a “Mondor’s Cord” forms.
There is nothing that you need to do, should you form Mondor’s cords. If you have mild discomfort, you may find warm soaks (if the wound is healed) and mild anti-inflammatory agents like Ibuprofen for the discomfort to be helpful. The vast majority of patients require nothing to treat this. The problem is self-limited and will spontaneously resolve in several weeks to a few months (see example below shown at 2, 3 and 12 weeks after surgery).