What's the average stay time for a drain after a tummy tuck?

Doctor Answers 4


I use drians that come out at 7, 9 and 14 days.  There are multiple techniques for tummy tuck.  Traditionally this operation is performed with drains.  The skin is elevated off of the abdominal wall, the excess is excised, and the skin is draped over the abdomen.  This leaves a large area that needs to heal by sticking back down to the abdominal wall.  Drains provide a way for the fluid and blood to be evacuated and speed the process of the abdominal skin sticking back to the abdominal wall.  If drains are not used, the fluid that is generated by the elevation of the skin is still generated.  Those of us that use drains do not believe that simply by quilting the skin to the abdominal wall will prevent the accumulation of fluid.  In fact, the quilting would make the fluid accumulate in isolated pockets.  Drains are a very useful tool in an abdominoplasty.   They are temporary.  If they affect the outcome in a negative way, were difficult to manage after surgery, or were permanent, then it would be a topic worth debating.  There are surgeons that have good outcomes with drains, and surgeons that have good outcomes without drains.  Pick your surgeon based on their outcomes, professionalism, experience, training, ability, not on whether they use drains.

Tummy tuck drains

The average time drains need to stay after a tummy tuck will vary depending on how large the patient is and how much liposuction is done at the same time as well as the surgical technique that is used.  It seems that overall for most patients, they are being kept in place for 1- 2 weeks.  Some plastic surgeons (including myself) take extra time to place deep "progressive tension sutures" to tack the abdominal skin flap down to the deeper abdominal muscle/ fascia layer (like quilting stitches) to close off the dead space that results from the elevation of the skin flap and which accumulates the fluid that requires the use of the drains.  By taking the extra time and effort to do this, it has shown to cut the drain time to less than half for a lot of patients.  Dealing with the drains after surgery is what most tummy patients hate the most.  I usually keep my drains in for 4- 5 days only now after adopting this technique almost 10 years ago (you can judge for yourself by looking at the results of patients who have had this done).  I think these progressive tension sutures also help me give my patients more definition of their six packs.  It takes more time to do it this way, but it's definitely worth it.  Keeping drains in too long can also increase the risk for infection.  Removing them too soon though (or not using them at all) can increase the risk for seromas (which is one of the most common risks of tummy tucks).  I would recommend you see several board certified plastic surgeons who have a lot of experience with tummy tucks.  Best wishes.

Drains after a tummy tuck

Aloha and thanks for your question.I rarely use drains with tummy tucks; only if I'm doing extensive liposuction at the same time/adjacent areas. Average time is usually about 1 week.Mahalo, Dr D

Kevin Dieffenbach, MD
Oahu Island Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

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Drain care following tummy tuck

Thank you for your question! Following a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) surgery patients will be expected to care for their drains (by measuring and recording their total) for 10 days. Patients are given a prescription for an oral antibiotic which should be taken during the entire time that the drains are in place. We advise patients they are able to shower with the drains 48 hours following surgery. Hope this helps, good luck! 

Brian S. Glatt, MD, FACS
Morristown Plastic Surgeon
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