How long does the drain stay in after breast augmentation surgery?

By Dr. Ted

I never use a drain after breast augmentation surgery. I don’t believe that it’s necessary.

A drain is inserted to remove blood or serous fluid (the body’s thin watery fluid) that can accumulate around a surgical site. The drain is a round tube that resembles a turkey baster. The smaller end is placed inside the body, the bulbous end sticks out of the body. When the bulb is compressed, it creates a suction action and the fluid is removed.

"I love Thanksgiving turkey. It's the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts." - Arnold Schwarzenegger

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

The body can absorb up to about 50 ccs in a 24-hour period, so a drain is needed only if there will be more fluid buildup. During a breast augmentation, my patients consistently lose no more than a teaspoon (about 5 ccs) of blood. After surgery, there is very little fluid accumulation around the implants, so there’s no need for a drain. Likewise, I don’t use drains after breast lift surgery.

With no drains and no stitches on the outside to manage or remove, my patients report that their post-op care is easy. They go home with a Steri-Strip band-aid over their incision. All they have to do is apply ointment on top of the strip each day.

In the United States, there is general agreement among plastic surgeons that drains aren’t needed for these two procedures, although some surgeons believe otherwise. Many European plastic surgeons commonly use drains.

On the other hand, drains are always used for breast reconstruction surgery and frequently used after a breast reduction. In a breast reduction, a large amount of tissue is removed. Flaps of tissue with large surface areas ooze and need to be drained. I remove the drain the next morning following surgery. After breast reconstruction, the drain might stay in place for about a week. It’s usually removed when the drainage is less than 50 ccs in a 24-hour period.

A drain can help prevent a hematoma (large collection of blood) or a seroma (a large collection of fluid). In these situations, the advantages of the drain outweigh the possibility of the drain causing an infection by allowing bacteria from the skin to enter the your body.

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