Drain removal; Can a registered nurse safely pull them instead of my PS?

PS would not remove drains Tuesday. Output was higher than preferred. Rescheduled drain removal to Monday (6+days). Output has now ceased to nothing. I have called twice & they refuse to move my appt, even with zero drainage. Turns out, they're closed on Fridays. Is there risk to drains remaining inside my body for 3+days after drainage has stopped? Will this affect my scar? The sutures have started to pull & become very uncomfortable. Can a registered nurse safely pull them instead of my PS?

Doctor Answers 7

Drain removal

A nurse is able to remove the drains, however it should not be done without discussion and approval by your plastic surgeon.  Try to contact your surgeon and have information available regarding the amount of output from each drain from the previous days.  Also, be sure to inform him/her about the discomfort you are experiencing at the drain site.
Best wishes.

Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

Drains out after breast surgery


Thanks for posting your question. I am happy to try and help you. It is important to remember that a board certified plastic surgeon will be your best resource when it comes to an accurate assessment of your situation, and concerns.

Having said that,  pulling a drain out does not require a nurse. It does require the doctors advisement or direction.

Best wishes,

Dr. Michael J. Brown
Northern Virginia Plastic Surgeon

Michael J. Brown, MD
Ashburn Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 32 reviews


Yes a nurse can pull your drain but I recommend speaking to your plastic surgeon first. Your PS may have specific reasons as for keeping a drain. The most common reason for a drain is to remove fluid, a second reason for a drain is to create negative pressure under your skin so your skin can adequately adhere to the underlying tissue. I would not remove your drain before speaking to your PS. 

Johnny Shea-Yuan Chung, MD, FACS
Allentown Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

Drain removal; Can a registered nurse safely pull them instead of my PS?

Yes, a registered nurse ( especially under the employment/guidance of your plastic surgeon) can remove drains.  Best to run your concerns/questions directly by your plastic surgeon for specific/relevant advice. Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,448 reviews

Can a nurse pull my drains?

Not all nurses (or medical assistants or physician assistants) have the same skills and experience.  Certainly if the physician extender has been trained in drain removal and is experienced it could be done.  I have several nurses that routinely remove drains when the outputs are at the recommended level.  You should discuss this with your surgeon.  Good luck.

David J. Wages, MD
Peabody Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Drain removal; Can a registered nurse safely pull them instead of my PS?

Thank you for your question.  Sorry to hear about the situation.  It is important not to pull drains if the output is higher than desired.   I understand your concern about the drains being present for another few days.  As there is always a small chance an infection could develop it is unlikely.  Having the drains a few more days won't have an impact on your scarring either.  It seems your PS scheduled you to have them removed at the next possible day the office was open.    It is ok for a nurse to pull drains but only if that nurse works for your PS.  I would never let any nurse outside of my practice pull a drain.   Also, an RN outside of the practice would not want the liability of pulling your drains.  I recommend being patient and keeping your appointment on monday with your PS.  

Jeffrey Antimarino, MD, FACS
Pittsburgh Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Drain removal

You have to discuss this with your surgeon. A qualified nurse certainly can remove drains, but again you should discuss this with your surgeon.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 24 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.