How Much Fluid Should Be Draining After Tummy Tuck?

I had my tummy tuck yesterday morning. I have not had to empty the drains as often as I imagined I would. From 8:30 - 7pm In both drains was 50mL (day after surgery) Is this too little?

Doctor Answers 15

Drains and Tummy Tucks

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
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

Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

How much drainage should be be seen post Tummy Tuck?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Thank you for your question.  Drains are typically removed when there is less than 30cc in the drain for 24 hours.  In most cases, the first drain comes out by day 7 and the second drain by day 14.  Note that the drainage may increase after the first couple of days and the patient moves about more.  Each Board Certified Plastic Surgeon is different.  Best to share the goals with them, and together you will make a plan. 

Jeffrey J. Roth, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Fluid from drainage tubes after tummy tuck

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Dear newairbags,

The volume of drainage after a tummy tuck can be quite variable. The amount you have is well within the normal range. Having a lower output generally means that your drains will come out sooner rather than later. That is a good thing. Good luck.

Best regards,

Lawrence Tong MD FACS FRCSC

Lawrence Tong, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon

Drainage expectations following a tummy tuck

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

There is so much variability of drainage following a tummy tuck. The amount that you have had within the first 24 hours is well within normal limits. So don't worry! I have found some patients beig able to have their drains removed within the 1st week; others can take 4 weeks or longer.

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

Drainage After Tummy Tuck

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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 67 reviews

Drainage can vary...

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
It’s normal for patients to have drainage following abdominoplasty surgery.The amount of drainage varies from patient to patient and depends upon a multitude of variables.These include the extent of the surgical procedure, activity levels, the amount of intraoperative bleeding, and the use of tumescent fluid when combined with liposuction.
In the first 24 hours the amount of fluid that drains may be as high as 300cc’s.With time drainage usually slows, and when the levels drop sufficiently the drains can be removed.In our practice we typically remove drains when they drop below 25cc per 24 hours.
Although your drainage is definitely on the low side, it’s still within the normal range.Under these circumstances, you’ll probably have your drains removed sooner rather than later.
If you have questions about your drainage, it’s important to consult your plastic surgeon.Your surgeon should be able to reassure you and alleviate your anxiety.

Drains after a tummy tuck

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

The drainage after a tummy tuck is quite variable, and most will have an experience similar to yours with very little output. We do not use drains any longer in tummy tuck, and if the output remains low your surgeon may be encouraged to remove them earlier.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Drainage Volume After Tummy Tuck

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

There is a good bit of variation on the amount of drainage following tummy tucks.  The fact that your drains have put out 50cc indicates that they are functioning properly.  Even though your output is a bit on the low side, I would not be overly concerned.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
Louisville Plastic Surgeon

Drainage after a TT

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

That's great!  Your drainage is normal or perhaps a little low.  You probably won't get a seroma and your drains will come out sooner than someone with more drainage.  I have had patients who drained as much as 400 cc a day.  Too much activity can increase drainage and don't be in a rush to get those drains out.  30 cc in a 24 hour period is what I look for.  Just relax and think positively.

Lori H. Saltz, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Drain fluid after abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Drainage tubes are important after abdominoplasty surgery to remove fluid- output can be variable, from 20 ml to 200 or 300 ml per day. This depends on how extensive your surgery was as well as the technique that was used - different methods can minimize drainage. Drain output may be on the higher side if liposuction was done since the "tumescent" fluid that is injected into the fatty layer is not all suctioned out during surgery, so this residual fluid will come out of the drains as well. It is important to keep the drains in until the output has decreased to a certain volume- my rule of thumb is to remove drains when the output is less than 30 ml over a 24 hour period. A little pearl: since skin irritation at the drain sites is common, lidoderm patches (have numbing medicine impregnated into the patches) can help with discomfort.

Ariel N. Rad, MD, PhD
Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 57 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.