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Drains After Tummy Tuck: What Do I Need to Know?

Woman showing off her stomach after a Tummy Tuck in Toronto, ON

You might have read about drains during your tummy tuck research. Tummy tucks are popular for creating a flatter abdominal area, along with a couple of other interesting perks. But the surgery is also well-known for another reason: a longer recovery time than many other plastic surgery procedures.

Surgical drains serve an important purpose in healing after a tummy tuck. When talking with tummy tuck patients at my Toronto and Oshawa practices, I often answer a few common questions regarding drains and recovery.

What are drains? How do they work?

Drains are used to remove fluid that may accumulate in the space between the stomach skin and core muscles. This space is created during a tummy tuck so that your surgeon can tighten the underlying abdominal area. Your body naturally responds to surgery by filling this area with fluid. During recovery, it is important to manage this swelling and make sure the space doesn’t become infected or irritated.

If the fluid is left unattended, it can harden and form a lumpy, cyst-like wall. Drains help ensure your skin properly seals back to the muscle and produces a soft, flattering midsection.

How do I clean my drains?

Patients are encouraged to check their drains about twice a day and record the fluid output. This allows your surgeon to track how much swelling is occurring. It is also important to occasionally inspect your drains for clots. If a clot is found, simply squeeze or pinch the clot towards the drain’s exit.

If you are ever unsure or have any questions, be sure to ask your surgeon for drain cleaning advice.

How long are the drains in place?

Drains are usually left in for at least a week or longer, depending on how much swelling occurs. They might be removed earlier if your drains are not draining much fluid. However, if you experience a lot of swelling, they will be left in place for longer.

Everyone heals differently after a tummy tuck. Your doctor will examine how much fluid is coming out of your drains to determine if you’re ready for drain removal.

How are the drains removed?

Drains are generally placed in a small incision above your genital area, held tightly in place with small stitches or tape. During removal, these placeholders are cut and the tube is gently pulled out. Local anesthesia is usually not needed and there is rarely any pain.

While some patients request a “no drain” option after their tummy tuck, drains are the surest way to reduce swelling and minimize the risk of complications. Please have an in-depth conversation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to find the best option for you.

You can browse our before-and-after gallery featuring my actual patients and their tummy tuck results after healing. If you have any other questions or concerns, contact us online to request a consultation or call (416) 925-7337 to schedule an appointment.

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Derek Ford, MD FRCSC

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Derek T. Ford, MD, FRCSC