Drains ready to be removed?

I am 10 days post tummy tuck with back lipo, & BA with lift. I noticed my tummy tuck drains collecting only 5 cc liquid or less in 24hrs. Does this mean drains are ready to be removed? My drains will be removed at day 15. I do not think drains are clogged. I don't have much swelling either only a little in the flanks area. Any downsides from leaving drains longer than needed?

Doctor Answers 12


Likely the drains are ready to be removed.  Every surgeon has his or her own guideline

regarding drain removal.  The idea is that if the drainage is low then the small amount of inflammatory fluid can be absorbed by the body so the drains can be removed.  If the drains stay in longer than necessary there could  be a slight increased risk of infection as the drain can act as a foreign body.  The risk is low, however many surgeons choose to continue antibiotics while the drains are in.  Of course this means you could be taking antibiotics longer than necessary as well and that can also have some potential downside.

Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Removing Drains after Tummy Tuck

Drains should be removed as soon as the drainage is minimal. At 5 ml/24 hours you have met this criteria. They should, therefore be removed now. There are 2 risks of leaving them longer. First, they can start irritating the tissues and stimulate drainage resulting in a seroma once they are removed. Secondly, they are a two way path and, when they are nonfunctional, they can allow germs into the area, increasing the risk of an infection. 

Robert T. Buchanan, MD
Highlands Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Can drains come out?

Congratulations on your recent surgery.  Generally drain tubes can be removed when the output is very minimal usually less than 30 cc per day for several days.  Best to check with your surgeon and see if they would like to see you sooner and hopefully remove your drains.  Good luck.

Eric Schaffer, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Removing drains after a mommy make-over

Thank you for asking about your mommy make-over drains.

  • Yes, when your drains are removing less than 5 cc of fluid, they can be removed.
  • Ask your surgeon if you can come in earlier to have drains removed if they are bothering you.
  • The earlier they are removed, usually the easier it is to slide them out.

Always see a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Best wishes  - Elizabeth Morgan MD PHD FACS

Elizabeth Morgan, MD, PhD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Drains removal

Dear N,

     The purpose of drains is to remove the fluids after surgery, in order to allow the skin to stick down to the underlying tissue and heal. Most surgeons will remove the drain when the fluid production is down to 25-30 cc in 24 hours.

   The 'RealSelf' forum is designed to answer questions , as well as educate the members in the most beneficial way for them.  In my practice of over 29 years I do things totally different than what you have experienced:

    1.  I do not perform tummy tuck with liposuction due to the significant increase in severe complication when combining the procedures . In a recent article in the plastic surgery journal based on data from cosmetic surgery insurance company, it was revealed that combining tummy tuck with any surgery increases the severe complication rate 2-3 times. Combining tummy tuck  with liposuction increases the severe complications X 10 ! In the state of Florida, it is illegal  to perform tummy tuck with liposuction of over 1000 cc, due to alarming complications and deaths that occurred and brought the state to investigate it  issuing that ruling. I hope that you are doing fine, but patients have to be informed. 

   2. I do not combine tummy tuck and breasts augmentation at the same time , because these are painful surgeries and patients end up staying in bed and not drinking fluids , for the fear of needing to go to the bathroom. This can result in serious complications like blood clots and pneumonia !

   3. I do not use drains for tummy tuck. Instead, I use the suture quilting technique that prevents  seromas and promote faster healing.

  4. I use drains for liposuction of the abdomen and flanks, but I remove them them after 4-5 days.

  5. An important factor to consider is that combination of tummy tuck with liposuction  and breast augmentation with a lift is very long surgery. Any surgery over 6 hours increases the anesthesia complication according to the Anesthesia society. Additionally, surgeons fatigue can have a negative impact on the final outcome . 

   Always, consult with experienced board certified plastic surgeons who operate in accredited surgery center for your safety. Most importantly, check the before and after pictures in the photo gallery, to make sure that they are numerous, consistent and attractive.

                   All the best,

                                       Dr Widder


Shlomo Widder, MD
McLean Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Drains ready to be removed?

Thank you for sharing your question and congratulations on your surgery.  Based on your low output you should be able to have the drains removed now.  In my practice drains producing less than 30cc/24 hours are removed.  Hope this helps.

Nelson Castillo, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 68 reviews

Tummy tuck drains

Thank you for your question. In my office the drains  are usually removed when there is less then 30 mL collectively per 24 hours over a few days. Sometimes the drains need to be in longer than one week . However , the average is usually  one week. Speak with your surgeon because they will be able to guide you to when your drains can be removed.

Joanne Lopes, MD
Virginia Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Drains ready to be removed?

In our office we remove a drain when the output is under 25cc per day, usually by the 7th day. You need to contact your surgeon. 

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

Drain removal following surgery

Thank you for your question.  I typically remove drains when there is less than 30 cc per day.  You may try calling your surgeon's office to see if you can get an earlier followup visit for drain removal.  Best wishes!

Nicholas Tarola, MD
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Drains and Tummy Tuck

This is a clinical decision that should be made by your surgeon. Would suggest you contact the office with your question.

Bryan G. Forley, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 12 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.