How Comfortable or Uncomfortable Are the Drains Used for Breast Reduction?

What kind of irritation can the drains from breat reduction cause? Are these put in at the time of the surgery, or post-op based on the need from an evaluation?

Doctor Answers 12

Drains are a source of only minor irritation to the patient.

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Drains are commonly used with a variety of surgical procedures such as Breast Reduction, Facelift, and Abdominoplasty. They are needed to prevent an unwanted build up of fluid that can occur as an aftermath of these operations that can lead to an infection. The Drain itself is usually a long tube made out of silicon that is placed during surgery into the operative sight beneath the skin and is brought out through a separate stab wound or through one of the incisions used in the operation. The drain then is connected into a small portable suction bulb that essentially vacuums out the unwanted fluid through the drain. This bulb is pinned to the patients clothing and each patient is easily taught how evacuate and measure the fluid collected. To prevent the patient from accidentally pulling out the drain the surgeon usually sutures the drain to their skin surface. This suture can be a source of irritation and does cause some minor discomfort when an inadvertent drag is applied to the drain warning the patient to be careful. Other then some very slight pain on its removal the drain poses no other threat to the comfort of the patient. Except for the smallest of Breast Reductions I always use a drain and 99% of the time can remove the drain on the first day post-op.

Chicago Plastic Surgeon

Don't worry about drains- there's too much worry about them on the net

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I used to routinely use drains in breast reductions but now only do in the larger sized reductions.  Either way, if your doctor uses them it is because they feel it will help you heal better and the removal is easy.  Too much concern is on the internet about drains.

Surgical drains

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Surgical drains are used in all types of surgery, not limited to plastic surgery.  The purpose of drains is to prevent the accumulation of fluid within a surgical wound after surgery.  The decision whether or not to use them varies between surgeons and the type of surgery.  I personally do not use drains in breast reduction surgery. If they are used, they are generally left in place for a short period of time for breast reductions, such as 1-4 days.  There may be mild, very temporary discomfort upon removal which is performed in the office.  I do use drains for abdominoplasties (tummy tucks) and these are generally kept in place approximately one week.  If fluid builds up in a surgical wound and there is no drain in place, a needle aspiration is often performed.  This procedure involves passing a needle through the skin to remove this fluid and aid the healing process.

Breast reduction and drains

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Drains are not always used in breast reductions. Some plastic surgeons may use them all the time; others never and many - occassionally. I used to use them in virtually all my reductions but rarely do so now. When they are employed, it is at the time of the procedure.

Discomfort associated with them does vary among patients. For most, it is just a nuisance to have them in place though they are at most only associated with mild irritation or discomfort.

Steven Turkeltaub, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Use of drains in breast reductions

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I disagree with some of my colleagues. I routinely use drains in breast reduction surgery and have performed approximately 1500 such procedures. The purpose of the drains is to prevent accumulation of serous fluid which could otherwise disrupt the surgical scar, which would then create an open wound which would have to close secondarily. The drains are not uncomfortable and they are removed in the office easily several days after the procedure. I find that patients have tremendous trepidation about the drains which they later say was unfounded. Let me note that many patients come to me because of my expertise with large reductions and that the greater the extent of the surgery, the more likely it is that drains will be required.

Drains are often used after breast reduction surgery, but rarely do they need to

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be left in place for more than 24 hours.  The drains are placed at the time of surgery, and they are made out of soft material, and function to remove any build up of fluid after surgery.  Most people are not bothered at all by simply having drains in place for a short period of time, and any discomfort associated with removing the drains can be minimized by using a local anesthetic at the time that the drains are removed.  

Michael H. Rosenberg, MD
Mount Kisco Plastic Surgeon

Drains In Breast Reduction

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The discomfort which comes from the drains used in breast reductions varies for a couple of reasons.  First of all, there is a good deal of variation in pain perception and tolerance among different individuals.  Secondly, drains come in different sizes and shapes.  I use very small drains which I feel cause less discomfort and I always place them at the time of surgery.  The drains can usually be removed in only a few days.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Breast Reduction Surgery and Drains

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The use of drains for breast reduction surgery is variable from plastic surgeon to plastic surgeon, so I believe their use may not be as important as was once thought.

In most cases, I still use soft suction drains and remove them after a few days, as I see advantages to removing the tissue fluid and/or blood that might accumulate.

These drains are not painful and slide out easily and with minimal discomfort when they are removed.


Fredrick A. Valauri, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon

Drains: usually not needed

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I rarely use drains nowadays unless the reduction is very excessive.  

Even when used,  a round drain is not very uncomfortable and is easily removed.

Jed H. Horowitz, MD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 116 reviews

Drains are not routinely needed for breast reduction

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Depending upon the technique and the surgeon, drains are not necessarily needed for a breast reduction. Drains are used to remove fluid from a "dead space" such as during a tummy tuck to prevent fluid accumulation and help the skin to adhere to the abdominal wall.However in a breast reduction they are not necessarily as useful. I personally do not use drains for a breast reduction and have not seen any seromas (fluid buildup).

Consult with a board certified plastic surgeon for more details regarding  the use of drains in breast reductions.

Best wishes,


William Bruno, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 412 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.