Drains not draining 36 hours after explantation. Should I be concerned?

I had my explantation about 36 hours ago. I'm tightly wrapped and have drainage tubes in. I've followed the directions regarding the drains but they seem to be backed up and not draining at all. It's late at night and I'm concerned. Should I be? What am I doing wrong? Is there something I can do to get the liquids moving again?

Doctor Answers 13

Drain removal

It may simply be that there is no fluid left for the drain tubes to collect.  Contact your surgeon for evaluation and potential removal.  If they are plugged or not working properly your surgeon can help you manage the situation.

Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews


After explantation there should not be much drainage.  I think that contacting the surgeon is not a bad idea.  The drains will likely be removed faster than you expected!   

Good Luck 

Mark T. Boschert, MD
Saint Louis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Drains not draining 36 hours after explantation. Should I be concerned?

Thank you for your question.  Drain tubes are placed in order to wick away any fluid that may accumulate in the space where surgery is performed.  Because removing implants leads to a fairly small space, I would not expect much drainage, especially if they also bound your chest with a compressive type wrapping.  Best to make sure that your drains are not kinked, and if the surgeon instructed you on how to "strip" the drains, you can try this as well, but if you have not had a significant change in your recovery, this lack of drainage should not cause you concern.  

Nelson Castillo, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

#Explant #BreastImplantRemoval - Drains not draining 36 hour

Not necessarily.

Drains are inserted to remove some of the excess fluid - but often there isn't that much.  If you are wrapped then you can assume that much of the fluid was already forced into the drains by that.  You don't necessarily need to contact your PS about this issue at this time.

However, the larger questions are how you're doing in general.  Any fever, chills, sweats?  Does one side hurt much more than the other; is one bigger than the other?

For the answers to those questions it is reasonable to touch base with your PS before the weekend, as would probably be the case anyway.

I hope that this helps and good luck,

Dr. Alan Engler
Member of RealSelf100

Alan M. Engler, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 125 reviews

Drains not draining 36 hours after explantation. Should I be concerned?

Thank you for your question.  Drains are placed to help divert the extra fluid your body creates after surgery.  Sometimes patients don't produce much fluid and therefore your drains are working but there is not enough fluid to come out.  This may be normal.  Sometimes a drain can be clogged or obstructed and this would prevent fluid from coming out.  If both drains have no output it is more likely that you aren't producing fluid than both sides being obstructed.  I would suggest you touch base with your surgeon.   They would want to know.  If there is no fluid production then the drains may be ready to come out.  Good luck.

David J. Wages, MD
Peabody Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Drains 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, you should go see your plastic surgeon. Online consultants are not the appropriate source of information for you; your plastic surgeon should be your resource when it comes to postoperative care.

Best wishes,

Dr. Michael J. Brown
Northern Virginia Plastic Surgeon

Michael J. Brown, MD
Ashburn Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Managing the drains

The drains need to be milked to keep them functioning.  Call to find out how they want you to manage your drains.

Gary Lawton, MD, FACS
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 135 reviews

Surgical drains

Unless you had a capsulectomy, with "simple explanation" the drains commonly stop putting out fluid after a few days.  Have you tried "stripping the drain" with an alcohol swab?  Best to call your surgeon for specific questions like this.

Thomas Fiala, MD
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 79 reviews

Managing drainage tubes are implant removal

Thank you for your question about your implant explanatation.

  • Every surgeon has patients manage things differently -
  • I tell all my patients that I would prefer they called me with an issue that isn't important than to not call me about something that ended up being important.
  • Three days after surgery - you may not be draining any more fluid.
  • But I wouldn't mind if you called me in the middle of the night if you were concerned about your drains.
  • This may not be your surgeon's view - so look at your post-operative instructions, follow them and call the office in the morning or call your surgeon now, depending on those instructions.
Always consult a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.
Hope you find this information helpful. Best wishes.

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

Drains not draining 36 hours after explantation. Should I be concerned?

Most likely minimal drain output is a good sign; just make sure that there is no kink in the tubing.  Otherwise, if the drain output is low it may be time to have them removed. Your plastic surgeon will always be your best resource… Best wishes for an outcome that you will be very pleased with.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,484 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.