How Can You Tell if You Have a Seroma or Just Swelling? I Had a TT 17 Days Ago and Very Puffy Under my Incision

How Can You Tell if You Have a Seroma or Just Swelling? I Had a TT 17 Days Ago and Very Puffy Under my Incision

Doctor Answers 13

Swelling Versus Seroma

Go see you doctor.  Its easy to tell.  If seroma you will get fluid waves like in the ocean when you tap on one side.  Look in a mirror.  Tap The right side.  Do you see a wave.   Little seromas are hard to see but are insignificant so it does not matter anyway.   Wear a tummy binder as much as you cah on lower abdomen.  This corrects either problem.  If seromadont worry. They go away 99.9% of time.   Sometimes draining a seroma speeds the resolution.  You will be fine.   Best,  Dr Commons

Sometimes its difficult...

The main way that the physician tells is if a fluid wave is present - think of tapping one edge of a water bed and feeling the wave come to the other side (I think that shows my age!) Soft tissue swelling is a little more firm with no wave. Basically, you need to see your surgeon for an exam. Good Luck!

Brian Klink, MD
Vacaville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Seroma after Tummy tuck

As a patient you may be able to distinguish seroma  from swelling by feeling for a fluid wave. If you place your hand on one side of the area of concern and you feel a “wave” sensation with your other hand (on the other side of the area of concern)  you likely have a  seroma.  Your surgeon will be able to make the diagnosis; often, several aspirations may be necessary to resolve the problem.

I hope this helps.

Seroma vs. Swelling

Significant swelling early in the postop period after drain removal is always concerning for seroma formation.  I will often recommend an ultrasound if I am unsure or sterile drainage if it is palpable.

I would recommend close followup with your plastic surgeon.

Paul S. Gill, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

Your surgeon should know

Please discuss this with your surgeon, he should be able to tell you and reccomend treatment as indicated, good luck.

"Puffy" abdomen following a tummy tuck

Seromas as well as significant swelling of the abdomen are very common during the period of time that you are at following your abdominoplasty. Typically a seroma will appear as an undulating fluid wave whereas swelling is more firm and fixed.

You should contact your plastic surgeon who can then assess your situation and take appropriate action if indicated.

Steven Turkeltaub, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews


A fluid wave is what we use to determnine a free fluid collection. It is difficult to determine if you are not trained in this clinical exam. You must go to your plastic surgeon and he can tell immediately. If a seroma he will need to remove the fluid.

Miguel Delgado, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

Swelling post tummy tuck

see your surgeon. the surgeon is the one to decide what they expected and what is possibly wrong post surgery. it may be normal, it may be fluid that needs to be drained. get to it soon.

Rick Rosen, MD
Norwalk Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Please see your surgeon

I would agree with both Dr's.Rand and Commons.You need to see your surgeon for further evaluation and possible treatment.

Kamran Khoobehi, MD
New Orleans Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Diagnosing a seroma after a tummy tuck

You are in the right time frame for a seroma.  It can be differentiated from tissue swelling clinically by tapping on one side of the abdomen and seeing a water-bed like fluid wave rumble across to the other side.  If that doesn't happen, it is probably just tissue swelling.  An ultrasound can also be done to be sure but the need for that is rare.

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.