Removing Drainage Hoses After Tummy Tuck Painful?

About the Tummy Tuck, how are the drainage hoses removed? Is it extremely painful?

Doctor Answers 13

Is drain removal painful?

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Hi there-

The three variables to consider are the technique of the person removing the drain, the anxiety level and pain threshold of the patient (you), and the qualities of the drains (they are not all created equal).

It is important to be calm and at peace when the procedure is to be performed, as there is no question that anxious, stressed patients experience more pain with any procedure than calm, peaceful patients do. That's your part...

The person performing the procedure can also do a lot to make these little procedures less stressful and painful, by being a calming influence and being sensitive the patient's pain and anxiety (this is where the homework you did in selecting your surgeon in the first place will pay off, or make you wish you had gone somewhere else).

Finally, the drains themselves are important. Some drains are less painful to have in and remove than others (although they might be more expensive). In our practice, we use drains that are Teflon coated and a constant diameter, and almost no one even feels the point at which we remove them. I've even asked my patients to close their eyes and tell me when they think I'm removing the drain- and most people don't realize the drain is out until I ask them to open their eyes and I show it to them!

Don't have too much stress about this- even if you do feel something, it's usually a minor pinch that lasts but a second and will not by any means be a source of regret for you.

Drain removal after tummy tuck is very easy.

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Carrying the drains around for a few days can be uncomfortable. In New York City, we leave drains in for a week in tummy tuck patients.

But removing the drains takes a few seconds, and you only feel a quick twinge.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

Is Drain Removal Painful?

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There is usually a single stitch around each drain that is removed, then the suction is stopped by opening the cap on the collecting bulb and the drain slid out. It generally is not very painful for most patients and if so is very fleeting.

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Drains and Tummy Tucks

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Thank you for your post. Whenever there is a potential space in your body, your body tends to fill that space with serous fluid (the yellow type of fluid that also comes out of a 'weeping wound'. This is similar to when you get a blister: the layers of skin separate and fluid is deposited in to the space. In a tummy tuck, the space is in between the skin/fat layer and the muscle layer. Most surgeons will place a drain to remove this fluid while your body is secreting it until the fat layer grows back together with the muscle layer. At that point, no more fluid is secreted into the area, because there is no more space for fluid. The length of time that this takes varies from patient to patient. Some patients heal much faster, thus the layers seal together much faster. Also, the more twisting motion you have in your belly area, the slower the two layers grow back together because they are moving in relation to each other. The fluid coming through the drain can be initially dark red, and eventually clears to pink then yellow. This is because it takes just a little bit of blood to make the fluid dark red. Also, initially, there can be a large amount of fluid (few hundred cc's in the first day is not out of the range of normal) and this should slow down substantially over next few days. Once the fluid slows down to the amount that your surgeon is comfortable with (usually 25-50 cc in 24 hours) then they will be pulled. There is minimal discomfort in pulling the drain in most patients.
More recently, 'drain free' surgery has become more popular. Fat layer is sutured down to the muscle layer starting at the ribs and progressively down to the lower incision. This makes the space for the fluid to collect much smaller, and in many patients can have surgery without drains. However, I have seen multiple patients come from other surgeons because they developed a seroma despite the suturing of the tissue. This is not the surgeon's fault, but some patients just do not heal fast enough or put out too much fluid for the body to absorb.
Best wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

More worry than it's worth

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Most of my patients come in worried about the drains coming out. I would say 99% say "Thats it?" when I tell them we're done. Don't worry...

Robert Frank, MD
Munster Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Drain removal

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The tubes usually slip out easily unless they are left in for a long time during which time tissue can grow into the holes. I usually removed the drains within 2-7 days depending on the surgery and amount of drainage. It takes a few seconds. If using suction drains, I take the drain off the suction bulb and pull gently to dislodge it. Once I feel the tube move easily, I put it back on very minimal suction so that it suctions any small collections as I remove it. Patients are usually more apprehensive than the removal itself warrants

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

It depends how you prepare your patients mentally

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I can't say that drain removal is totally painless. Every person's pain treshhold is different as well. It is important to take the drain off suction first and also make sure you cut the suture holding the drain in place before pulling the drain. I tell my patients that they might feel a burning sensation as it slips out and this can last about 30 sec. A gentle pressure over the exit site helps alleviate the discomfort. On the other hand, many have no pain at all, but the apprehension and unknown makes one scared.

Removing drainage hoses after tummy tuck painful?

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Many patient's state that they dread the thought of removing the drains for fear of pain. This is reasonable considering the drainage tube is inside the body and needs to come out. Although there will be a few seconds of a burning sensation at the skin opening there will be no deep pain. Normally there is a suture securing the drain at the opening. Surgeon or nurse will first cut this connection and let you know the drain is going to be removed. Normally the drain is removed quickly the discomfort lasts a few seconds. Its helpful for the surgeon or the nurse to help alleviate apprehension and fear as much as possible by fully explaining what is going to happen.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 133 reviews

Drain Removal

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Drains are used in the vast majority of abdominoplasty patients. These drains are usually removed in about two weeks following surgery.
The pain associated with drain removal is the source of significant anxiety for many abdominoplasty patients.In reality, the majority of patients hardly notice their removal, but it’s fair to say that the occasional patient does notice a sharp pulling sensation. It’s important to realize that this pain only lasts a few seconds.

It depends on the drain and who is removing it

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The drain I use (only one) is a very thin round drain which does not get wider on the inside of the patient. It slides out easily like a piece of spaghetti.

Other drains are a bit more uncomfortable to remove but if done gently and with some empathy, all goes fine. I just found over the years that this single drain actually works better than the 2 wider ones I used to use and is so much easier to remove.

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.