What Color Should the Drain Outage Be After Tummy Tuck?

Just had a full tuck with lipo and have 4 drains. Can't remember what color is good or bad for the drainage. Is dark yellow liquid coming from the drains good or bad?

Doctor Answers 8

Drain output following tummy tuck

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The color is not necessarily used as a good or bad indicator. Generally, the initial drainage is bloody and tends to be thick and dark with a tendency to clot. As the drainage diminishes it goes from dark red to lighter red (Hawaiin punch) to clearer red orange, to a lighter orange yellow and eventually to a clear yellow (serous) fluid. This is typically about the time the drainage dimishes.

Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Color of Tummy Tuck Drainage

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All drains do is remove the fluid appearing in between the two walls of the operated areas. As the fluid is removed, the opposite walls spend more time in contact with each other and ultimately stick to one another stopping the fluid production.

The color of the fluid reflects WHERE in the stage of healing the wound is located. Early after surgery, the fluid is bloody. As the tiny oozing stops, the drainage becomes blood tinged and occasionally narrow strips of clots are seen in a fluid that resembles the color of CLEAR apple juice. Later, no blood or clots are seen and the color of drainage changes to CLEAR light SEROUS yellow.

The ONLY time I would worry is if the color becomes CLOUDY, or greenish or begin to have any odor. Such changes may indicate an infection. At all times, if you have any questions, I am sure your surgeon would want to know.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

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

Drainage amount and color change as healing occurs.

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It’s normal for patients to have drainage following abdominoplasty surgery. This drainage is initially bloody. It rapidly transitions to a watery red kool-aide consistency. Eventually the drainage becomes clear with a yellow tint.
During the process the volume slowly decreases as well. When the drainage is clear and below 25cc per 24 hours, the drains can be removed.

Drainage following Tummy Tuck

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I also use 4 drains routinely on a full tummy tuck. Typically the drainage is initially red since is it largely blood. Over the course of a few days as the drainage usually decreases in volume it also becomes less red and more yellow. At this later point, the drainage is largely serum.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Drain output after tummy tuck

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Initially your drain output should be a little blood-tinged.  After a few days, it begins to look like Kool-Aid -- pink to red.  Following this it will become more watery and yellow to clear as the output decreases in volume.  If the output smells foul to you, or you are concerned about the color, I suggest calling your surgeon for a brief evaluation.  Good luck, /nsn.

Drain Outage After Tummy Tuck

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It is normal to have a little bit of drainage after the drain has removed.  The skin wound will need a few days to fully close and until that happens some fluid can leak.  However, there should not be a large amount of drainage, nor bright red blood.   If this happens, go see your surgeon immediately.

Gary Motykie, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 68 reviews

Tummy tuck and drains

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Drain output fluid is usually bloody  becoming more serous (yellow)  after a few days. I don't think any specific color of drain output should be concerning; however, thicker/more dense  fluid especially associated with an unpleasant odor would be concerned (no matter what the color).

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.