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

Doctor Answers 29

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!

Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

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The drains are important

I like to place two drains on my abdominoplasty.  I will take them out when they are draining less than 30 cc /24 hours and this can take about 7-10 days.  Remember, you can always take a drain out, but you can't simply put it back in.  Patient's can often return to work with a drain and disguise it under the clothes.

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.

Ricardo A. Meade, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 75 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Average time for drains to stay in after tummy tuck

The time required for your drains to stay in can vary depending upon a number of factors:

  • the amount of liposuction that is performed at the time of your tummy tuck
  • the degree of undermining of tissue
  • your overall health and ability to heal

That being said, these are only a few of the factors which influence the amount of drainage that you can expect.  Many physicians go by the rule that the drains can be removed once there is less than 30cc per drain per day.  And although drains are not anyone's favorite thing to have in, they do serve a very important function in the early postoperative period.

I hope that helps!

What to Expect During Recovery From Tummy Tuck Surgery

How long your drains remain in place will depend on how much drainage you have in the days following your abdominoplasty. This is why patients are asked to keep a record of the amount of fluid collected in the bulbs each day. On average, drains are removed 7 to 10 days after your surgery.

Camille Cash, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

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 and Tummy Tucks

Thank you for your post. Whenever there is a potential space in your body, your body tends to fill that space with serous fluid (the yellow type of fluid that also comes out of a 'weeping wound'. This is similar to when you get a blister: the layers of skin separate and fluid is deposited in to the space. In a tummy tuck, the space is in between the skin/fat layer and the muscle layer. Most surgeons will place a drain to remove this fluid while your body is secreting it until the fat layer grows back together with the muscle layer. At that point, no more fluid is secreted into the area, because there is no more space for fluid. The length of time that this takes varies from patient to patient. Some patients heal much faster, thus the layers seal together much faster. Also, the more twisting motion you have in your belly area, the slower the two layers grow back together because they are moving in relation to each other. The fluid coming through the drain can be initially dark red, and eventually clears to pink then yellow. This is because it takes just a little bit of blood to make the fluid dark red. Also, initially, there can be a large amount of fluid (few hundred cc's in the first day is not out of the range of normal) and this should slow down substantially over next few days. Once the fluid slows down to the amount that your surgeon is comfortable with (usually 25-50 cc in 24 hours) then they will be pulled. There is minimal discomfort in pulling the drain in most patients.
More recently, 'drain free' surgery has become more popular. Fat layer is sutured down to the muscle layer starting at the ribs and progressively down to the lower incision. This makes the space for the fluid to collect much smaller, and in many patients can have surgery without drains. However, I have seen multiple patients come from other surgeons because they developed a seroma despite the suturing of the tissue. This is not the surgeon's fault, but some patients just do not heal fast enough or put out too much fluid for the body to absorb.
Best wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

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.