How long should wound drains stay in?

I am booked to have a full tummy tuck & arm lift in Belgium in a few weeks time. The recommended stay is one night post surgery in the hospital & a further two in a hotel. Then following wound redressing & drain removal return to the UK. However I have read on this site & various places that drains can sometimes remain in place for two to three weeks & wonder if three days is too soon? What are the complications if any & is it better to leave in place for longer?

Doctor Answers 4

How long should wound drains stay in?

I typically remove drains in 2 to 3 weeks depending upon the quality of drainage and the amount of drainage.  I would ask your surgeon about this as the specifics of each case are different.  It is always best to ask these questions of your chosen surgeon as recommendations may be different.

Kenneth Hughes, MD

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 492 reviews

Drain removal after tummy tuck

Drains are usually removed after a tummy tuck based on the volume of fluid they produce over a 24 hour period. Our office will remove these drains when their 24 hour output is less that 25cc for the last several days.  Drains/drainsites can become infected so removing them as soon as possible is an important part of the recovery process.  Removing them too  soon can also lead to fluid collections under the abdominal skin called seromas.  You should discuss this issue with your plastic surgeon before surgery so there are no surprises during the recovery process.

Robert C. Bledsoe, Jr., MD
Grapevine Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Leaving the drains in for 3 or 4 days after a tummy tuck is fine if the surgeon avoids electrodissection

I leave a drain in for 3 or 4 days after a tummy tuck. The drain helps remove fluid that would otherwise accumulate. The surgical method influences how much fluid will develop. If surgeons avoid using cautery for their dissection, there is less fluid accumulation. Most plastic surgeons do use cautery for the dissection and seromas are common and are typically treated with drainage using a needle in the office. Most surgeons use two drains. I use one, but I use scalpel dissection rather than electrodissection, so one drain is enough. If you leave the drains in too long (a week or more) the risk of infection goes up. Also, drains are a nuisance and it is preferable to remove them earlier rather than later. A link is provided in case you wish to read more.

Eric Swanson, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Post-op Drains

Thank you very much for your question, and congratulations on your upcoming tummy tuck procedure. The length of time drains stay in place will depend on several factors, including the surgical technique utilized, the patient’s healing progress, and the surgeon’s own protocol. In many cases, surgical drains are only necessary for two to five days post-op, and are usually removed as soon as possible. If you have any additional concerns, I suggest bringing your questions to your operating surgeon.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 109 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.