What is a Liposuction Drain & What Does It Do?

I've been reading up a lot and considering a Tummy Tuck. I have a tight abdomen but loose skin and stretch marks. I was advised that Smart Lipo would not do the trick. I really want to know what the purpose of the drain is.

Doctor Answers 4

A drain removes fluid

In a typical tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), the skin and fat of the abdominal wall is lifted up off the rectus or "6-pack" muscles. Some of the blood supply known as the lymphatics are temporarily disrupted. This allows fluid to build up after surgery.

The fluid needs to be drained to avoid a collection known as a seroma. I will typically keep a drain in until less than 30ml of fluid comes out per day. Being overactive when you are supposed to be taking it easy can increase the chances of a seroma.

Most surgeons have their patients wear an elastic abdominal binder (like a soft corset) after surgery to try and push the skin/fat back down onto the muscle layer and prevent any deadspace for fluid to fill into. Also, avoiding a lot of trunk twisting in the first few weeks after surgery helps.

Liposuction is often combined with abdominoplasty to accentuate the results but the risk profile increases. Speak to your surgeon candidly about this to be well-informed.

I appreciate your fears about abdominoplasty, but if you truly need it you will end up loving how it looks. If you are afraid of the pain after surgery, ask your surgeon about a pain pump. A pain pump is a small device that delivers a constant stream of numbing medicine (eg. Marcaine) through a tiny catheter placed under the abdominal skin. It typically stays in around 5 days and can make the first few days after surgery much more comfortable.

Good luck.

Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

The drain prevents fluid accumulation (seroma).

To Scared2death,

Hi! It does sound from your description that you need a tummy tuck. In Manhattan, we always use suction drains after abdominoplasty, and leave them in for several days.

A tummy tuck is very technique sensitive, and we take a number of measures -- including drains and internal sutures -- to prevent seromas. Seromas happen about 5% of the time and they are a nuisance because they can prolong the recovery by a couple of weeks. But a seroma does not affect the final result.

Also, don't be scared! With a good surgeon, a good anesthesiologist, good nurses, and a good accredited operating room and recovery room, it is very safe.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

We usually don't use a drain in liposuction


We usually do not use drains for liposuction. A drain is used in an abdominoplasty to allow serous fluid to come out during the time that the abdominal skin is reattaching to the abdominal wall muscles. The drain can be removed anywhere from 3-14 days after abdominoplasty. Smartlipo will not tighten your abdomen nor remove stretch marks.

I think having at least two consultations with board-certified plastic surgeons will help you make sure that your questions are answered and make sure that your goals can be met. Best of luck.

Francisco Canales, MD
Santa Rosa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

To Remove Fluid

During a tummy tuck the fat is elevated off of the abdominal wall fascia (the tissues that encase the muscles). When this is done the tiny, one cell wall thick vessels called lymphatics are disrupted. These vessels return the fluid normally found in our tissues to the vascular system or blood vessels. This is a constant process.

Because these vessels are disrupted during the tummy tuck that tissue fluid that we normally have builds up because the remaining lymphatic vessels can't handle the volume. This build up of fluid, if left in the tissue, would be a seroma. Thus the purpose of the drains is to prevent this seroma.

Some surgeons advocate stitching the fat to the abdominal wall, called progressive tension suturing, and don't do any drains. They advocate that no drains are needed. However, a 2007 randomized study found that the rate of seroma formation was the same as in the drain group but surgical time was 50 minutes longer. That's your money they're wasting on something that is not an improvement.

Drains are a proven modality and quite necessary.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 33 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.