If you’re considering plastic surgery, one aspect of recovery that may be on your mind is the possibility of having post-op surgical drains. The thought of coming home after a procedure with little plastic devices attached to the body can be unsettling for many. Here’s some information that may help ease your mind just a bit.
What is a Surgical Drain?
There are several different types of surgical drains, and they’re used routinely for heart surgery, abdominal surgery, orthopedic surgery and general surgery. For plastic surgery, the drain may consist of a tube coming from the wound and ending in a small plastic bulb, or it may be a tube that terminates into a gauze dressing.
Why Might I Need Drains?
Surgical drains channel fluid away from a surgical site. Their most obvious purpose is to prevent fluid build-up after surgery—a condition called a “seroma.”
But there are other good reasons plastic surgeons use drains. One is to promote faster healing. Some procedures require separating large stretches of skin from underlying tissues-- an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) surgery is a good example. Proper healing requires the skin to adhere anew to muscles and other structures, and when fluid builds up between, this process takes longer.
In addition, excess fluid can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so the sooner it dissipates, the better. Fluid build-up can also cause more discomfort during healing.
Which Procedures Require Drains?
Generally speaking, the more invasive the procedure and the more separation of skin, fat, muscles and surrounding tissue occurs, the more likely your surgeon will want you to have one or more drains. Drains are rare in facelift surgery and other facial procedures, but almost always used for extensive surgeries like body lifts. Many plastic surgeons do not use them for breast augmentation, but most do for breast reduction and breast reconstruction.
There’s one thing plastic surgeons almost universally agree on—doctors determine their use of drains based on training and experience in helping patients heal.