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How Long Should I Expect to Have Surgical Drains After Mommy Makeover Surgery?

I am having breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, and liposuction.

Doctor Answers (30)

Drains and Tummy Tucks

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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

Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Drains Are Used Following a Tummy Tuck & are Usually Left in Place for 7-14 Days Following Surgery

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Drains are frequently used in the post-operative period in mommy makeover patients to minimize the potential for seroma formation. Drains are typically not used with breast surgery, but are used after abdominoplasty. Drains are usually left in place for 7 to 14 days following surgery. They are usually removed when drainage drops below 25cc per 24 hours.
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. Patients are usually eager to get their drains removed and sometimes pressure their surgeon to remove them. When drains are removed to early, there may be an increased complication rate. This might result in seroma formations with resultant infection and wound breakdown. Under these circumstances seromas may require multiple aspirations or replacement of the drain. Although drains seem to be a major nuisance, they serve as a very important function in most mommy makeover patients.

Drains after mommy makeover

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The use of drains, and time that they are left in after surgery, varies depending on the surgeon.  Some plastic surgeons leave drains in for a certain length of time, others remove them when they are draining a certain amount of fluid, and others avoid routine drain use altogether.  I have not used drains for the majority of my breast operations for years, and have decreased their use in many of my tummy tuck patients (depending on the extend of surgery etc). I have not seen an increase in complications in my patients as I have decreased the routine use of drains.  However, I would recommend speaking to your plastic surgeon about their practices.


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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 after tummy tuck

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Drains after a tummy tuck are placed under the abdominal skin. The skin has been elevated off the abdominal wall and fluid has a tendency to collect in the space. The drain prevents formation of seroma. Abdominoplasty drains are typically left in place for 1 to 2 weeks.

I also like to use a pain pump. This infuses local anesthetic onto the abdominal wall and can help with some early postoperative pain. This is removed within the first week.

Austin Hayes, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Drains after surgery

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I typically do not use drains. However, when I do, they are usually in for one to two weeks depending on the drain output after surgery. Hope this helps.

Grant Stevens, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

Drains after mommy makeover

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I tell my abdominoplasty patients to expect to have their drains in place for at least a week.  Typically the decision to remove drains is not dogmatic and based on an arbitrary time schedule, rather it is based upon how much fluid is draining out of them.  Classically we like to see 30 cc or less per drain per 24 hours before removal.  Sometimes liposuction with tummy tuck can increase the drainage and hence the time that the drains will stay in place.

I don't usually use any drains following a mommy make over surgery.

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I have never used drains following breast surgery but over the past two years I have stopped using drains following abdominal surgery also.  I believe the patients are much happier now not having to deal with emptying them and carrying them around.  I believe my seroma rates have been lower now that I have stopped using drains.


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I do not use drains for breast lifts or breast augmentation. I use drains for the tummy tucks. They usually stay for about 3-7 days.

Norman Bakshandeh, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Mommy Makeover Drains from the Tummy Tuck Removed Usually by Day 3

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Thank you for your question. Drains are rarely used in the Breast after Breast Augmnetation or Breast Lift.

Typically drains are used after the Tummy Tuck Portion of the Mommy Makeover. Most plastic Surgeons leave drains in until less than 25 cc (less than an ounce) of fluid comes out of each drain in a 24 hour period.

In some people this is one day and others can take longer if there is a lot of fluid coming out. An average is about 3 days.

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.