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Drains or No Drain Tummy Tuck- Which Has Better Overall Results, Recovery and Safety?

I am scheduled for three more consultations this week. Two for Thursday and one for Friday, then I shall make my decision. I am very nervous/scared for the surgery itself, more for the anesthesia. But my question is f any body can give their opinions on a tummy tuck with drains and with no drains. The no drains sounds so tempting since I hear a lot about the drains being a big hassle.

Doctor Answers 17

Drains vs. No drains

Great question.  There is a tummy tuck technique that uses sutures to close down the empty space left from a tummy tuck.  Advocates for this technique highlight the advantage as no need for drains after a tummy tuck.  However, published studies on this technique show up to a 10-20% seroma rate (fluid collections).    The use of drains in a tummy tuck carry less than a 5% seroma rate.  

I understand your apprehension about drains.  Most patients don't like their drains. They are not painful but a nuisance; these drains can tug at you.  But consider drains as a safe and necessary nuisance to help prevent fluid collections.   As my colleagues have mentioned here, drains are generally removed 3-7 days after tummy tuck surgery.

Everyone including physicians and nurses are nervous about having surgery - that's normal.  I'm glad you are thinking about your safety.  First, make sure you are only visiting with board certified plastic surgeons who are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  Make sure your surgery will be done in a fully accredited surgery center or hospital only with a board certified MD anesthesiologist.  Definitely review your surgeon's before/after photos as they are a testament to the quality of outcomes.  Lastly, go with your gut feeling - pick the surgeon and his/her team with whom you feel most comfortable.

In the end, if you've done your homework, I'm sure you will love your results!. Best wishes.

Dr. Basu

Houston, TX

Drains with Abdominoplasty

An excellent tummy tuck result can be achieved with or without the use of drains.  You are right in that drains are annoying and typically remain in place for about a week.  Drains can be avoided but require the placement of many more sutures internally to close off the space in which the fluid would accumulate.  This should be one of many factors that you use to determine your choice of surgeon and probably not one of the more important ones.

Richard Kofkoff, MD, FACS
Saint Louis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 53 reviews

Drains or No Drain Tummy Tuck?

Thank you for your question. The no-drain option is a bad option.  If a tummy tuck is done right, you will need a drain.  No drain and fluid will accumulate and delay healing.  Get past the drain idea, and get the right procedure done. I hope this helps.

Vivek Bansal, MD
Danville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Don't sweat the small stuff

Ultimately the question "to drain or not to drain" is a minor issue when compared with the overall complexity of the surgery and your subsequent post-operative recovery. My advice to you is choose a surgeon that you trust and trust your surgeon to make the right decision about whether or not to use drains.

Best of luck

James Southwell-Keely, MD
Sydney Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Tummy tuck technique matters more then drains

and those that leave the loose lymphatic tissue behind will always have less fluid collections then those that cut down to the fascia of your muscles.  I use only one drain when done with preservation of the loose lymphatic tissues and have removed them in 7-10 days.  And you can shower with your drain in.

Curtis Wong, MD
Redding Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

I Prefer Drains

Drains can be a hassle  but I believe drains are effective and very appropriate for body contouring. Drains prevent seromas. Seromas if they develop can be persistent. It is better to deal with the hassle of drains for about 10 days that to deal with a seroma for months.

Dr. ES

Drain or No Drain for Tummy Tuck

For many patients, drains are uncomfortable and a hassle. However, that should not be your deciding factor for choosing your plastic surgeon. 

I have not used drains for tummy tucks for over 8 years and after over 200 cases, have less seromas than when I used drains. The success of not using drains depends on the surgeon's technique. 

For more details, go the website below.

Karol A. Gutowski, MD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

To drain or not drain an abdominoplasty

To drain or not to drain is a common question.  There is no correct answer.  Some surgeons prefer to drain all abdominoplasty patients due to the degree of subcutaneous undermining.  The high tension advancement sutures do  help but will not prevent a seroma in every case.  A seroma is not a huge problem but is annoying and requires multiple office visits for drainage.  Many times a drain is a necessary evil.  

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

No drain for tummy tuck

We have not used a drain for tummy tuck for many years now, and do not have any seromas. The technique is not unique and well published. We feel it is safer because our patients feel more confident without the drain, move more freely, and shower easily after the procedure. Moving and walking is very important after to prevent venous thrombosis. Many surgeons are hung up on the drain thing and after nine years of success we do not know why.

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Drains or No Drain Tummy Tuck- Which Has Better Overall Results, Recovery and Safety?

Dear Skinny,
thank you for your post.  As you can see, drains should be the least in a long list of considerations for surgery.  Results is the primary consideration by far.  Choose the surgeon you are the most comfortable with and who obtains the results in similarly matched patients that you most like.
Best wishes, 
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

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.