Possible Fluid Build Up Since Drains Were Removed?

I had a revision tummy tuck on 5/3/12. I my drains were draining less than 25cc on 5/14/12. I don't have any redness or swelling so far, but I noticed today that when I depress the middle of my lower abdomen, to the left of the area I press is having a "wave". The best way I can describe it is like when you press up and down on a water bed and it creates sort of a wave. There isn't any pain associated with it and I don't have any drainage or fever. Is this something that will absorb on its own?

Doctor Answers 10

Fluid Build Up

This is a recognizable complication after drain removal and usually resolves on its own in a matter of three or four weeks. I do not recommend removing it unless it is painful as it usually recurs until the body is ready to absorb it. Continuing wearing the post surgical garment may help resolve it.

Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Treatment of a Seroma After a Tummy Tuck

Thank you for your excellent description.  You, in fact, have a seroma.  That is a collection of fluid between the skin and muscle, and it has boundaries and you need to get rid of it sooner rather than later.  There are multiple reasons that could lead to this seroma, but the easy answer is that your lymphatics (those vessels that drain away excess fluid) at this point are overwhelmed by whatever fluid present, and therefore there is a fluid buildup in a pocket under the skin of your abdomen.  To allow the lymphatics to get strong enough to drain this fluid, you need to decrease the fluid and keep the fluid decreased for several days to a week.  The best method that I know of is called a Seromacath.  It is a clever little draining tube.  Your plastic surgeon can numb the skin, put it in, drain away the fluid for a couple of days until your pocket scars shut, then it can be removed easily.  Your skin is numbed, there is absolutely no pain involved, and this is a clever little trick that has been very useful in my practice. 

Unfortunately, all plastic surgeons get seromas sometimes.  Please call your personal plastic surgeon and tell him or her what is going on.  I am sure he or she will do an excellent job of resolving this minor bump in your recovery road. 

Seroma should be addressed!

Based on your history you appear to have classic seroma formation.Seroma formation is a common problem following tummy tuck surgery.In an effort to minimize this complication, surgeons utilize drains in the post-operative period.These drains are typically left in place for 7 to 14 days following surgery.They are usually removed when drainage drops below 25 cc per 24 hours.
After the drains are removed, seroma fluid can continue to develop for a limited period of time.In most cases, the body resorbs this fluid before it can develop into a seroma.In some cases, this fluid accumulates faster than the body’s capacity to resorb it.When this occurs, seroma formation can result.This occurs when patients are physically active.
Once a seroma forms, serial percutaneous aspirations with a needle and syringe are necessary.If this continues percutaneous CT-guided drain placement may be necessary.In rare cases, placing a sclerosing agent into the seroma cavity may be necessary to prevent seroma formation.
Although most seromas don’t represent a significant problem, they should be removed.Seroma removal helps decrease the potential for infection and wound break down.It also makes recovery a more comfortable experience.The vast majority of seromas have resolved in six weeks, but occasionally they persist for longer periods of time.Clinically significant seromas should always be drained.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

Seroma after revision tummy tuck

It seems like you have a seroma from your description.  When you see and feel the "wave," you need aspiration of the fluid.  You may need once or more aspiration of the fluid and need to wear the compression garment for several weeks so that you do not re-accumulate the fluid again.  You also want to limit your activity level.  It is not emergent problem; however, you should contact your plastic surgeon to address the situation soon. Best wishes.

Sugene Kim, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

Seroma fluid should be drained


It certainly sounds like you have a seroma which is a collection of healing fluid.  This fluid should be aspirate (drained) and the abdominal binder should be worn snug and consistently to prevent the fluid from re-collecting.  You may have to have your plastic surgeon evaluate and aspirate the seroma fluid several times at 2-3 day intervals before it subsides.  Seroma fluid that is left alone and does not get absorbed can lead to pseudobursa formation.

All the best,

Dr. Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 162 reviews

It is seroma

This a seroma which is fluid build up. You need to contact your plastic surgeon to have it aspirated. It is done in the office and may need to be repeated. It should not affect the final outcome of surgery.

Moneer Jaibaji, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews




That sounds like it can be Seroma which is(fluid) that our body produces. Our body will absorb it, if its not to much. If it's causing you discomfort you should see you surgeon and have it aspirated.

Stuart B. Kincaid, MD, FACS (in memoriam)
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
3.3 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Seroma after Drain Removal?

Thank you for the question.

The “wave” sensation that you have described is a classic  physical examination finding associated with the presence of a fluid collection. Sometimes this fluid collection absorbs on its own;  usually however aspiration is necessary.  Often, several episodes of aspiration is necessary.

Follow-up with your plastic surgeon for precise diagnosis/treatment.

Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,487 reviews

Fluid after drain removal

As long as the fluid id minimal, your body should absorb it. The important issue is for you and your surgeon to monitor the site for signs of infection. Time should improve your situation.  

Raj S. Ambay, MD
Tampa Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Fluid after tummy tuck

You have described a seroma, or fluid collection. You need to see your surgeon and get it removed. This usually requires several removals using a needle and large syringe over the course of  several weeks.

Victor Au, MD (retired)
Chapel Hill Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 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.