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clock-icon   June 13, 2024

How Do I Use Drains After a Tummy Tuck?

During initial consultations, our Board-certified and Board-eligible plastic surgeons are often asked about the recovery period for a tummy tuck and how surgical drains fit into the healing process.

Getting the right information and understanding how surgical drains are used after a tummy tuck can help you be more confident going into this experience. The idea of post-surgery drains in your body may sound intimidating, but they lower the risk of complications, shorten your recovery, and help the healing process.


What Are Tummy Tuck Drains?

Tummy tuck drains are tubes that your surgeon inserts at the incision site to help remove the natural healing fluids your body produces during recovery. Removing these fluids reduces swelling, prevents infection, and promotes healing.

Surgical drains can either be passive or active. A passive drain relies on gravity or capillary action in the tube to drain the fluid that would otherwise accumulate under the incision. An active drain uses suction to draw out the fluid and is the type of drain that is typically used after a tummy tuck.

Why Are Drains Used?

During a tummy tuck surgery, a small space forms between the muscle in the abdomen and the skin tissue. As a natural part of healing, the body produces fluid, which includes blood and plasma, but this fluid can also accumulate in these small open spaces.

If the fluid is left in place, it can increase the risk of complications, like fever, swelling, and infection. Surgical drains help to remove that fluid safely, where it collects in a bulb that is about the size of a fist.

Milking the Drainage Tube

Because the drain removes some blood, it can clot and clog the tube, so the tubes must be “milked” several times each day to help remove clots and allow for the easy flow of fluid.

You should milk the tubing before emptying the bulb. Be sure to wash your hands first to avoid transferring any bacteria to the incision area!

Pinch the tube close to your body with your thumb and forefinger, keeping this hand in place near the incision to make sure the tube does not tug on your skin. Using the thumb and forefinger on your other hand, squeeze the tube and move your fingers along toward the bulb, moving any clots as you go.

These steps can be repeated as many times as needed until the clots are moved out of the tubing and into the bulb.


How to Empty Your Tummy Tuck Drains at Home

The bulbs are designed to be easily emptied and cleaned, and caring for the surgical drains encourages better drainage, and quicker and more effective healing. You must regularly clean the area where the drain enters the skin and will be instructed to empty the bulb several times each day so the fluid does not build back up. The bulb at the end of the drain has a stopper that you remove so you can empty the contents into a measuring device.

Once the fluid is out, squeeze the bulb to remove all the air and replace the stopper. This restores the suction in the bulb so it continues to remove fluid. After you record the color and amount of the drainage, you can flush it down the toilet and rinse the measuring container with water.

When Are the Drains Removed?

Initially, the bulb is emptied several times each day. As the drainage slows down, you can empty it two to three times each day. How long the drains stay in place depends on the extent of the surgery and your body’s ability to heal.

Drains are typically ready to be removed when the color of the drainage moves from red to yellow, and the amount reduces significantly.

When to Call Your Surgeon

You should call your surgeon anytime you have concerns about the drain or you think something looks different than it is supposed to. Check for signs of infection each time you empty the drain or milk the tubing, including tenderness or swelling that has increased since the surgery, and pus or warmth around the drainage or incision site.

Sometimes the drain can cause redness at the insertion point, about the size of a dime. This is normal! However, if that redness increases in size, that’s a reason to call your surgeon. It is important to keep the insertion site clean and dry throughout the day to help reduce the potential for infection.

NTPS Monitors Your Surgical Drains Recovery After a Tummy Tuck

North Texas Plastic Surgery stays on the cutting edge of new technology and tests products frequently to ensure our patients have the best options available. We specialize in a variety of plastic surgery techniques of the face, breast, and body, some of which also use drains to improve healing.

We encourage you to call our office and schedule a consultation to learn more about how the use of drains after a tummy tuck or other procedure can improve healing. Our skilled medical team can also show you a drain before surgery, and teach you how to properly and safely maintain it so you have no concerns when it comes time for the post-operation process.

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