Will I Need a Drain After My Tummy Tuck? Maybe Not, With Our Special Technique!

Dreading the drains? We specialize in techniques that avoid this side of tummy tuck recovery.

Drains. There’s just nothing sexy about them. Even the word has a bit of an ick factor—especially when you’re talking about the drains some patients need for a week or two after a tummy tuck.

Wait, did you say “drains”? Why do you need drains after a tummy tuck?

If you’re not yet acquainted with the concept of drains, they are small pouches that are attached (temporarily) to the body after surgery via a thin tube and secured with sutures. Drains allow fluid that would otherwise accumulate at the surgery site to drain into the pouch.

Drains can help prevent seroma after a tummy tuck, but they can also be uncomfortable and inconvenient for patients…

Traditional tummy tuck techniques separate the overlying skin and fat layer from the abdominal muscles, tighten the muscles, and then pull the skin/fat layer down, removing the excess tissue and suturing the results in place at the incision site. This creates a space that, until healed, can allow fluid to enter and result in a complication called seroma—a buildup of fluid that can elevate infection risk and compromise your results. For years, plastic surgeons have used drains to help reduce seroma risk after a tummy tuck.

No doubt, drains serve a good purpose, but they can also be uncomfortable for patients, not to mention…kind of gross. Drains must be emptied periodically, which is not difficult, but may be the last thing you want to worry about during the early days of your tummy tuck recovery. Additionally, showering is not allowed while drains are in, which many patients find to be the worst thing about them.

If you’re among the many who dread dealing with drains, we’ve got good news…

Our plastic surgeons can use special techniques to reduce or even eliminate the need for drains following tummy tuck surgery

The technique is called “progressive tension suturing.” Instead of relying on the sutures in the lower belly, near the incision site, to hold the newly tightened abdominal skin in place while you heal, our surgeons will place a series of internal sutures between the skin/fat layer and the muscle wall. This provides more even tension along the remodeled tissues and closes the space between the skin/fat layer and the abdominal muscles. You might think of it like having an invisible quilt beneath the skin, versus a plain blanket pulled tight.

Drain-free tummy tuck surgery is our Atlanta plastic surgeons’ preferred method. Not only is recovery more pleasant for patients, but we can often achieve better-looking results with this technique.

Closing this space prevents excess fluid from building up and dramatically reduces risk for seroma according to peer-reviewed study—this means no drains are needed to collect fluid.

The benefits of a drain-free tummy tuck go beyond no drains

At the Swan Center in Atlanta, drain free tummy tuck surgery is our plastic surgeons’ preferred method for many reasons. Not only does it make recovery more pleasant for patients, but it can actually achieve better-looking results—the more even tension provided by progressive suturing helps your scar heal more finely. Additional benefits include:

  • Better contouring ability. The drain-free tummy tuck technique lends itself very well to incorporating liposuction into the procedure, so we can sculpt a better overall shape, versus only firming and flattening the front of the belly.
  • Less discomfort after surgery. You have no drains to carry around and no tubes causing pressure and irritation around your incision sites.
  • You don’t have to deal with the hassle of emptying, measuring, and logging the amount of fluid in drains.
  • You may get back to work more quickly. Drains can be difficult to hide beneath clothing—especially if you’re having a tummy tuck during the heat of summer. If you are cleared to return to work, the absence of drains may save you from using extra vacation days to keep drains under wraps.
  • Fewer post-operative risks. One study showed that progressive suturing dramatically reduced seroma compared to older techniques. Without drains, we also eliminate the added risk of infection associated with drains.
  • You get to shower within a few days after surgery. Enough said.

Still, having drains for a week or two is way better than having a seroma

Although our Atlanta plastic surgeons will perform a drain-free tummy tuck whenever possible, there are certain cases in which it is necessary to use drains to ensure optimal results. If it turns out that drains are the best option for you, we will teach you step-by-step how to take care of them after surgery. Typically, drains are left in place for only one to two weeks before they are removed during a brief, in-office procedure.

Also, take heart knowing that most patients who’ve had drains say the experience wasn’t nearly as bad as they expected. (A few even say it is satisfying to see would-be swelling leaving the body.)

Thinking that a drain-free tummy tuck is the way to go?

We’d love to help you learn more! All of our Swan Center Atlanta board certified plastic surgeons are very experienced with drain-free tummy tucks. During a personal consultation, they can help you determine whether you are a good candidate and what results you can expect from tummy tuck surgery. Contact us anytime.

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