5 weeks post op, I had my JP drains removed around day 12 PO now I have a huge swelling. Any suggestion? (photos)

I'm had a full TT and MR on December 18th I had my JP drains removed around day 12 PO now I have a huge amount of swelling that looks like a baby bump and I can assure you im not pregnant. My incision looks ok except on my sides it's swollen and tender and I am terrified it's seroma and my PS wouldn't see me for the next few days im very uncomfortable and I have continually worn my garment since the day drains were removed. I need info on what this may be causing this and will my skin be loose?

Doctor Answers 9

Post op swelling

It is difficult to appreciate the cause from your photos, but you may have a fluid collection such as a seroma that could be drained using a small needle. If large enough, this can cause pressure and feel uncomfortable. Continuing to wear compression garment is a good idea. Best to see your surgeon or another board certified plastic surgeon as soon as possible to make sure the problem gets diagnosed correctly and resolved. Normally a seroma does not affect the long term results, but there are cases where seromas can become chronic and recurring. 

Swelling After Abdominoplasty

It is not unusual to have swelling after a tummy tuck and the swelling may last for many months.  It is impossible to determine what the precise cause of this is from your photos and there is no substitute for physical examination.  I suspect your plastic surgeon will be able to tell you the likely cause of the fullness that you see.  If this swelling came on suddenly then you should be seen soon but if it has been this way for weeks you can probably wait a few days to see your surgeon.  Generally, hematomas and seromas do not permanently harm your result, but again, this is a discussion you need to have with your plastic surgeon.

Richard Kofkoff, MD, FACS
Saint Louis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 71 reviews

Swelling after tummy tuck drain removal.

You are now 3 weeks after drain removal, and I too fear this may be a seroma or hematoma. Dr. Pousti has given a nice list of the potential causes for this, but the most likely is seroma. Second most likely is a stable (non-acute or expanding) hematoma. Your early post-op photos show this is not residual fat. Disruption of the muscle repair is possible but less likely in the whole scheme of things.

Wearing a binder religiously does not prevent seroma or hematoma. Have you seen your surgeon since the drains were removed? I usually check my patients a few days after drain removal to confirm the absence of accumulating seroma or hematoma, and guess what? I sometimes find a seroma that needs aspiration. Done early when the accumulation is small, this generally takes care of the issue, even if it needs repeating a few times every few days. But waiting 3 weeks may lead to bursa formation, and require re-operation.

Call your surgeon and arrange a recheck ASAP. Best wishes! Dr. Tholen

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 238 reviews

5 weeks post op, I had my JP drains removed around day 12 PO now I have a huge swelling. Any suggestion?

YES! Either aspiration attempts or obtains a scan to see if there is a fluid accumulation. Best to be seen by your chosen surgeon ASAP... 


You might have seroma, nothing serious but should be evacuated by puncture, the cause of this is the LACK of immobility during the first 4 weeks, patients after TT MUST be immobile and off work for 4-5 weeks, otherwise seromas or hemorrhage happen.

Seek your surgeon's help.

Alejandro Nogueira, MD
Spain Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Increased swelling 5 weeks after tummy tuck.

If this swelling is new and you are concerned, it is certainly reasonable to be able to see your surgeon or his/her nurse in a timely fashion. You may have an enlarging seroma (fluid collection). If you are not satisfied with the delay then I suggest you ask the office who is covering for him/her during this lack of availability. Best wishes!

Insist on seeing your plastic surgeon.

From your photos it is difficult to determine exactly what is causing your swelling. If your plastic surgeon or one that is covering for him or her cannot see you, you should be evaluated by another board certified plastic surgeon skilled in body contouring surgery. This is probably not something that an emergency room physician or family doctor can adequately assess. 

It it is difficult to imagine that your plastic surgeon will not see you if you communicate with his staff that you are concerned. Best of luck to you.

Ram Kalus, MD
Mount Pleasant Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Swelling after tummy tuck

Difficult to tell without seeing you in person and examining you but it may just be generalized fluid in your tissues (swelling) versus a seroma. Since you are so worried, ask to be seen right away by your operating surgeon so you can be properly evaluated and/or treated if necessary. Good luck!

5 weeks post op, I had my JP drains removed around day 12 PO now I have a huge swelling. Any suggestion?

As always, it is best to be seen in person ( by your plastic surgeon) for precise diagnosis and treatment.

Abdominal wall "swelling" after tummy tuck may be related to:

1. Swelling in the soft tissues.  This may take several months to resolve and may worsen with increased activity  or at the end of the day.   Patience  is required to allow for resolution of the swelling. The swelling occurs because of the interruption of venous and lymphatic channels that occurs during the tummy tuck operation.

2. Fluid accumulation in the space between the skin and the abdominal wall muscle.  this may consist of blood ( hematoma)  or serum (seroma).  This fluid accumulation can generally be diagnosed by physical examination ( occasionally ultrasound  may be helpful).  Treatment consists of aspiration;  several episodes of aspiration may be necessary. 

3. Separation of the abdominal wall muscle repair may lead to a swelling/bulge appearance. This may be diagnosed on physical examination  with your surgeon examining you in different bodily positions. One of the steps of a tummy tuck procedure involves reapproximation (plication)  of the rectus muscles.  These muscles have spread apart during pregnancy and/or weight gain. Bringing them together again in the midline helps to “tighten” the abdominal wall as well as to narrow the waistline.

4. Residual adipose tissue may be confused for swelling. Again this is most easily diagnosed by physical examination. Additional liposuction surgery maybe necessary to improve the results of surgery.

Generally, it takes many months for swelling to resolve after tummy tuck surgery and it may take up to one year  (or greater)  a complete skin redraping  to occur.

I hope this, and the attached link, helps.

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.