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What is Average Time for Drains to Stay in After Tummy Tuck?

Doctor Answers 35

Tummy tuck drains

Often, after a tummy tuck is performed there are drains needed.   On ocassion, a mini tummy tuck will not require a drain at all but this is for a tiny thin patient who has not had babies before (usually, but there are some genetic exceptions). 

With that, the drains are typically dry within a week.   When they come out, the office nurse clips the suture and the drain literally falls out.  They keep draining for a couple of days, just a few drops and then they dry up.  The little mark over the course of a  few months should become invisible.  By then, you likely have started a silicone and steroid cream of some sort that will make it go away even quicker.

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 84 reviews

Tummy tucks and drains

Whether getting a mini-tummy tuck or complete tummy tuck you will likely have drains. When I perform mini-tummy tucks I usually use one drain, and two drains in a complete tummy tuck. The drains help remove excess fluid throughout the healing process.

A natural part of the healing process includes your body producing a little fluid. Your body is also able to reabsorb some fluid, but in the beginning there is more than your body can handle. The drains help remove that fluid. In most cases, the first drain (when two are used) can be removed in about one week. The second drain is usually removed between the first and second week. The same 1-2 week period applies when only one drain is placed. If there is more fluid than average draining into the drains they may need to stay longer. The important thing is that they are removed when your body is able to handle things on its own.

I hope this info helps!

Adam Rubinstein, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Drains stay as long as needed.

If there is almost nothing draining after 1 week, we take both out. If there is a small amount, we take the one out with the less drainage and the other comes out a few days or 1 week later. If there is still a lot draining we leave the second drain in till it has almost nothing, but that is a rare occurrence.

Victor Au, MD
Chapel Hill Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Sometimes you don't even need them

Hi Time4meTx

Thanks for asking a very popular question.  Drains are a tricky thing in plastic surgery.  We use them because we often have large surface areas after surgery.  If we don't leave drains, fluid will accumulate under the belly wall and eventually could burst open the incision or become infected.  When drains are left for a tummy tuck, i would say the average is 1-2 weeks.  Sometimes patients may need them in longer depending on the amount of drainage coming out.  

For my patients, I like to perform a technique that DOES NOT REQUIRE drains.  It may take an extra 30minutes to perform, but in this technique we actually close off all the dead space with sutures.  By doing this we have found that drains are not required.  It also allows us to remove MORE tissue which can be important if you are trying to get the last bit of stretch marks out.  And finally it improves the scar, because the technique removes tension from the final closure and prevents widening of the scar post-operatively.

Hope this was helpful.  Good Luck

Brian Arslanian, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

How long do Drains stay in for Tummy Tuck?

#TummyTuckDrains timing for removal varies from surgeon to surgeon. One to two weeks is the usual time for my patients for drains to be left in place and are generally removed when they drain less than 30 cc per 24 hours. If a lot of liposuction is done at the same time, it may take a bit longer.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 72 reviews

What is Average Time for Drains to Stay in After Tummy Tuck?

Drains stay on for an average of 7 to 10 days. We look for less than 25cc of fluid being drained within an 48 hour period to determine if the drains are ready to be removed. Your body will continue producing fluid but the small amount is easily reabsorbed by the body. Thank you for your question. 

Drains are usually removed 1-2 weeks after surgery

Everyone's body responds differently to the stress of surgery, but everyone's body produces fluid in the area treated by surgery after abdominoplasty.  Technical details of the surgery, including whether liposuction is performed, impact much fluid is produced.  Fluid production usually peaks 2-3 days after surgery and improves thereafter.  Often drains are removed within a week of surgery, but may persist for longer depending on the individual.  

Depends on the patient

We typically use three drains because it results in fewer complications in the long term.  The first drain typically comes out at 7 days, the second at 9 days, and the third at 14 days.  This minimizes the chance that will be a hemotma or seroma as things heal.  However, this all depends on the amount of drainage you have.

Drains Typically Left in for 7-14 Days

                   Drains are frequently used in the post-operative period in abdominoplasty patients to minimize the potential for seroma formation.  Drains are typically left in place for 7-14 days following surgery.  They are usually removed when drainage drops below 25cc per 24 hour period.

                   The management of surgical drainage varies from patient to patient.  Each patient has unique surgical anatomy and surgical procedures are modified for each individual patient for these reasons.  In addition each surgeon has his own drain protocols.  In some patients, drainage may persist for longer periods of time, especially if patients are physically active.  When drains are removed to early, there may be an increased complication rate.  This might result in seroma formation which requires multiple aspirations or replacement of the drain.  Although drains seem to be a major nuisance, they serve  a very important function in most abdominoplasty patients.

Drains After Tummy Tuck

When used (as they aren't always necessary) both drains are usually removed within 2 weeks. Occasionally, they need to be left in longer. 

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.