Is It Normal to Have Lipo to You Entire Abdomen, Flanks and Back and Not Get Drains?

I had Lipo in my entire abdomen, flanks and back with fat trasnfered to my buttocks and I didn't get drains put in does that affect my recovery? Does it prolong my recovery? I'm 4 weeks post op and I still have swollen and hard spots which I know it's normal, I was just wondering if the drains would have made my recovery faster or give me better results?

Doctor Answers 12

Drains Are Not Needed With Liposuction

Dear Jusi418, I have never used drains for liposuction in the last 18 years of performing this operation. Using drains does not increase or improve healing. Your swelling at 4 weeks is not related to fluid that can be removed with a drain, but is due to tissue swelling that resolves with time. We have used external ultrasonic massage starting at 2 weeks post-op and continue this for 2-4 weeks. We have found this to speed up lymphatic flow and improve results.


Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 176 reviews

Liposuction and drains

No. Drains would not change your recovery. They are rarely used in liposuction.

Why not? Drains collect surgical fluid when there is one particular large space after surgery. Liposuction creates many surgical areas, all very small.  Drains serve no purpose except if the surgeon wants to keep the incision open to allow fluid to drain. I prefer taping and snug garments.

Lymphatic massage may help your healing. Ask your surgeon if he/she recommends this for you.

A little more time, and you should be fine!


Elizabeth Morgan, MD, PhD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Drains are not typically used for liposuction

It is an individual surgeon's choice to use drains and techniques vary widely, but typically drains are not utilized with lioposuction.  There is alot of fluid (tumescent) infused into the tissues at surgery, some of which is removed by the liposuction.  During the first few days, much of the fluid plus your own body fluids responding to the trauma of the procedure will leak out through the loosely closed incisions (or drains).  Once the openings seal, the remaining fluid is gradually mobilized and absorbed.  This process can take several weeks.

Sometimes a small dose of a diuretic is helpful to excrete the fluids, but otherwise be patient, it will happen by about 6 weeks.  "Hard spots" can be addressed with massage and will resolve also.  

David J. Levens, MD
Coral Springs Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 76 reviews

Are Drains Used for Liposuction?

The vast majority of plastic surgeons do not use drains following liposuction, in fact it would very unusual to find one that did. If you could see beneath the skin following liposuction it would not be an empty space where you could simply lay a drain in place, rather it is more like a honey comb appearance with the small arteries and veins, lymphatics vessels and nerves preserved. So even if you wanted to use a drain it would be hard to place.

What you are describing seems in the  normal range for the amount of surgery you had done.Wearing a support elastic garment minimizes the time for recovery significantly in my experience. 


Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 159 reviews

Liposuction and drains

I have never used drains for isolated liposuctin using PAL or with traditional liposuction.  Aas for other technqiues like VASer or Smartlipo these two generat alot of heat and are more prone to seroma formation.  A drain is sometimes used for these techniques.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Liposuction and the use of drains

I have never used drains for any liposuction procedure, no matter how extensive or the volume. It is very common to have a lot of swelling after liposuction that persists for some time. This is largely temporary lymphedema of the tissues which takes months to go away. The use of drains after surgery would not likely have made any difference in what you are seeing now. They remove loose fluids and do not affect lymphedema. I leave the small stab incisions open at the completion of the procedure which allows loose fluids and blood to drain out for a few days after surgery. This avoids any need for drains.

Barry L. Eppley, MD, DMD
Indianapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 72 reviews

Drains arent used after liposuction

I have been doing liposuction for a while now and I have never had the need to use drains. additionlly, the tumescent assisted liposuction is a very safe and a minimally invasive procedure that is performed under local anesthesia without any skin loss. most of the fluid leaks out in the first 12 hrs and the rest is absorbed over a week or so. in certain cases it can take upto 6-8 weeks. I advised compression staockings which helps to resolve the swelling and gives better results, faster. 

Misbah Khan MD, FAAD, FACMS
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Liposuction and drains

Drains are not typically used in liposuction as the excess fluid within the tissues drains itself via the access sites.  The swelling after liposuction is within the soft tissues and usually can take 6-8 weeks to completely resolve.  Compression garments can help control this edema and offer comfort during the recovery period.  

Pedy Ganchi, MD
Ridgewood Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 87 reviews

Drains are not always used after liposuction.

I often use drains after more aggressive liposuction cases or high definition liposculpture.  This is because with aggressive liposuction fluid can continue to collect for many days and needs a way out.  I do not use the same drains that I use for tummy tucks, I just use an open tube which helps to keep the incision open long enough to facilitate drainage.

Having said that, I don't use drains with every liposuction case though.  I select those that would benefit from it.

Richard H. Fryer, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 277 reviews

Drains are not used after liposuction

Surgical drains are used in abdominoplasty because this involves dissection of the subcutaneous tissues from the fascia and musculature such that fluid could amass and create a seroma. However , liposuction is more superfical. Given the volume involved, it may take more time for the swelling to resolve.

Robert L. Kraft, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 42 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.