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

Doctor Answers 41

Sometimes you don't even need them

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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

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

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

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

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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 and tummy tucks

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Great question.   Drains are small silastic tubes that are usually placed below your incision to allow any extra fluid building up where your excess skin and fat was removed with your tummy tuck.  Drains are not painful but are somewhat of a nuisance. They tend to tug at your skin and patients are eager to have them removed as soon as possible.  But they are necessary to prevent postoperative fluid collections also known as seromas.   Depending on your surgeon and exact procedure being performed (mini-tummy tuck, full tummy tuck, extended tummy tuck +/- liposuction), you will likely require 1 or 2 drains.  These drains generally stay in for 1-2 weeks depending on the output from each drain.  They are easily removed in the office.  Hope this helps.



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For a straightforward abdominoplasty, drains will be in for a week or so.  If a lot of liposuction has been performed, maybe 2 weeks.  Drains are not always required, but if they are not used, seroma formation and the need for in-office aspirations will be more common.

Jeffrey D. Wagner, MD
Indianapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Drains are usually removed 1-2 weeks after surgery

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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

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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 Typically Left in for 7-14 Days

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                   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.

Tummy tuck drains

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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
4.9 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Tummy tuck and drains

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I find in my practice that the average time per drains to remain in place (removed when output less than 20 mL per drain per day) is is 2 weeks. Of course this varies from patient to patient depending on the drain output.

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.