Fluid Build-Up After Tummy Tuck

I had a tummy tuck Feb 07,2011 and i have had fluid build up since i got my drains taken out about a week and a half ago. My stomach is like a water bed and i am bigger now than before i got the TT. I went to the doctor out of concern and they told me it would go away on its own but from what i read it can take years or be uncomfortable to let the body do it alone. The fluid doesn't seem to be going down at all and i look pregnant. What should i do?

Doctor Answers 17

Fluid Build-Up After Tummy Tuck

From you description, you have a seroma. This needs to be drained.  I typically do this with a needle and syringe and follow my patient every few days until it is completely resolved.  If it is as significant as you state "like a water bed" it is unlikely that it will resolve on its own any time soon!

Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

Tummy Tuck Seroma

Although I cannot tell for sure from your photo, it sounds as if you may have a seroma developing.  I usually treat this with aspiration in my office with application of a very tight garment afterwards.  This process often needs to be repeated a few times.  Occasionally it is necessary to put a drain back in, but I find this necessary very infrequently.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Seroma after tummy tuck

Seroma  that late  and as significant as you described will require drainage.

It is best accomplished with percutaneous draim.

Erel Laufer, MD
Dunedin Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Fluid or seroma after tummy tuck

With tummy tuck techniques that still require a drain, a seroma can develop after the drain is removed and present the full and pregnant feeling that you are now experiencing. The heavy water bed sensation is typical and the fastest way to resolve the issue is to replace the drain. Sounds awful though you will do better and feel better immediately.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Seroma after Tummy Tuck.

This is not unusual after a Tummy Tuck.  A small amount of fluid may be reabsorbed by the body.  If you notice a fluid wave, however, this may indicate a more substantial volume that could require a drainage procedure in the office.  If a significant volume of fluid is left untreated, it may form a lined cavity or pseudo cyst that might require surgical treatment.  Contact your plastic surgeon to address your concerns.

Stephen Delia, MD
Boston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Post operative seroma

You are describing a post operative seroma. It is a somewhat common complication, even with use of drains.  Your surgeon is right i that most small seromas can resolve on their own.  However, if you have a "waterbed" look to the overlying skin you likely will need to have your seroma drained.  This is a simple procedure done in the office in which a needle and syringe is used to remove the fluid.  This is followed by use of a compression garment and may need to be repeat a few time before it goes away.

Delio Ortegon, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Postoperative Seroma after Tummy Tuck

Ladyjay from Plant City,


You appear to be describing a postoperative seroma, which is a known complication from tummy tuck surgery.   It can result from persistant fluid accumulation after drain removal or a retained fluid collection that was not adequately drained.   Depending on the size of the collection, you may require a percutaneous drainage.    If the drainage recurs, a seroma catheter (small drain) can be placed until the drainage subsides.   

It is possible for the seroma cavity to form a capsule, which can be a very difficult problem to solve, requiring return to surgery to ultimately correct.    I recommend that you follow up closely with your surgeon and discuss all the options.

Paul S. Gill, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Seroma and Tummy Tuck

Thank you for your post. Seromas can be painful and cause a cosmetic deformity, as well as sometimes leak. The whole point of drains is to keep a seroma from happening in the first place. If a drainless procedure was performed, and you had a seroma, or you had drains that were pulled and you subsequently had a seroma, then you should be drained, otherwise a capsule builds around the fluid making it permanent. If a capsule builds around the seroma (pseudo bursa or encapsulated seroma) then the only way to remove the seroma is to surgically open the areas and excise the capsule, and close over drains to prevent another seroma from happening. If the seroma is encapsulated and is tight and painful, then it can be confused with just swelling or fat. An ultrasound is useful in distinguishing these and identifying the extent of the seroma. If the seroma is not yet encapsulated, then it is usually loose and has a 'fluid wave' or water bed type feel. Occasionally, a seroma can also become infected, especially if a permanent braided suture was used. This will have a hot, red appearance, and will eventually open up. Seromas can be aspirated instead of surgically removed and a tight compression garment placed, however this needs to be done often and until it is gone.
Best wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Fluid collection after a tummy tuck

Your description seems to indicate a seroma (fluid collection) has occurred after the drain removal.  Drains are placed after surgery to help minimize fluid collection that naturally occurs when the abdomen has been contoured as it has in a tummy tuck.  If a small amount of fluid collects after drain removal, your body will often absorb it without difficulty.  However, if there is a significant amount of fluid, it does need to be drained to prevent long-term complications.  The best treatment approach is drainage done with a needle in the office followed by compressive garments.  If the fluid continues to re-accumulate, another drain may need to be placed.  Good luck!

Naveen Setty, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 53 reviews

Fluid buildup after tummy tuck

 Your condition is consistent with a seroma, which is a collection of fluid underneath the abdominal flap. This should be addressed as it can be more difficult to resolve if it is left untreated early. Usually it will respond to needle aspirations in the office in conjunction with a pressure garment. You may require a number of aspiration sessions to completely resolve it. At times seromas can persist and require more aggressive treatments such as drains, sclerosing agents, or even surgery, but this is more the exception

David A. Bottger, MD
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 45 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.