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Drainless Tummy Tuck Vs. Tummy Tuck With Drains

Home » Articles » Drainless Tummy Tuck Vs. Tummy Tuck With Drains

Abdominoplasty, or what is commonly called a tummy tuck, is a surgical procedure designed to result in a flatter, tighter stomach. Tummy tucks in Orange County are very popular. As with any surgical procedure, it is wise to know about all of the options to make the best decision regarding your body.

Who should get a tummy tuck?

The best abdominoplasty procedures are meant for patients who are at a stable weight and in good health. Tummy tucks are not intended to replace traditional weight loss programs, but they can help cross the finish line on aesthetic fitness goals.

After working hard to lose weight, some people still have pockets of fat or excess skin that didn’t respond to diet and exercise. After pregnancy, some women have loose skin from where their abdomens stretched. This cosmetic surgery is perfect for candidates like this so long as they are in good health beforehand.

For patients who have lost a great deal of weight and have substantial portions of extra skin, circumferential tummy tucks are often recommended. These are a bit more involved than a standard procedure. A mini, or partial, tummy tuck for more localized results is also an option.

What is involved in a tummy tuck?

Patients are typically placed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will usually make two incisions. The first incision is made across the patient’s body from hip bone to hip bone. Skilled surgeons will aim to make this incision low enough that any scarring will be hidden behind underwear or bikini bottoms. The second incision is closer to the navel.

The skin between these incisions is then separated from the underlying muscles. The muscles are pulled together and stitched into place. Finally, the skin is stretched and reattached into a natural position.

The entire procedure typically takes somewhere between two to five hours.

Recovery

Patients typically wear compression garments that apply pressure to help alleviate pain and bruising.

Full recovery can take between two weeks to two months. While recovering, patients should avoid strenuous activity and any heavy lifting. Most patients return to work after a week or two.

To aid in recovery, a temporary tube may be inserted under the skin. This tube helps drain excess fluid from the surgical site. There are also options to skip the drainage tube after a procedure. This raises numerous questions regarding the difference between using or foregoing a drain during recovery.

Tummy Tuck With Drains

Most traditional tummy tucks involve using two drains during recovery. These drains minimize the amount of fluid that collects under the newly stretched skin while also absorbing residual blood. Drains, in general, can be removed between one to two weeks after a tummy tuck procedure.

Patients can often return to their regular routines, including going back to work, with drains in place. Drainage is typically consistent across both drains, so they are often removed at the same time. There are instances, however, when a surgeon will decide to remove only one drain. Each circumstance is different.

Tummy Tuck Without Drains

Drainless tummy tucks are becoming more popular as more surgeons become comfortable with new techniques. Essentially, drainless tummy tucks combine liposuction with the traditional procedure, thus eliminating the need for drains.

Liposuction is used to thin layers of the abdominal wall. These layers contain natural lymphatic channels that assist in draining fluid from the treatment area.

One of the significant benefits of drainless procedures involves aftercare. Drains must be monitored and cared for, cleaned regularly, and bags must be tracked and replaced as they fill with fluid. This is not to mention some mild discomfort from both wearing the drains and having them removed. On the other hand, drainless procedures eliminate the need for this meticulous aftercare. 

Foregoing a drain can also reduce the risk of other complications after the procedure. For example, bacteria from outside of the body poses a risk when drains are used. Drainless methods have fewer instances of infections.

Are There Risks to Drain-free Tummy Tucks?

In regards to safety, a drainless procedure is almost identical to the traditional tummy tuck using drains. The exception would be the potential increased risk of seroma, a collection of fluid under the skin that needs to be drained with a needle. Experienced surgeons can usually tell who is at a higher risk of developing seroma.

The recovery between the two methods is also very similar. Patients will still need to wear compression garments, experience mild discomfort for the first week, and be on light duty for a few weeks. Without the drainage tubes in place, there is no additional care or risks that would otherwise be associated with additional incisions in your body.

Am I a Candidate for a Drainless Tummy Tuck?

With a similar, if not slightly lower, risk profile, many tummy tuck patients are considering omitting the drains from their procedures. While it would be nice if every patient could make the decision, it is really up to their surgeon. There are several factors surgeons must consider.

These types of patients may not be ideal candidates for drainless operations:

  • Patients who have lost massive amounts of weight through diet, exercise, or surgery
  • Patients with a higher body-mass index (BMI) 

People in both of these camps tend to have more natural drainage after their surgery. Using drainage tubes will provide a better, safer, and speedier recovery.

Often, it is patients within fifteen pounds of their ideal weight that make great candidates. Ultimately, your surgeon will decide on what is best, but don’t be afraid to ask if a drainless tummy tuck is a good option for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Brian Reagan

Renowned, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Reagan underwent his surgical training at Cornell Medical College/The New York Hospital. He conducted the award-winning NIH-funded research in the science of wound healing and trained with experts in facial rejuvenation, rhinoplasty, and body contouring. 

Committed to giving back to the community, he is a Board Member and surgeon for a nonprofit that provides free surgery for children and young adults with congenital and acquired deformities. He has donated over 200 procedures and was awarded the “Health Hero Award” by the Combined Health Agencies of San Diego for his work. 

Dr. Reagan recently joined the board of The Burn Institute, a nonprofit committed to supporting the UCSD Burn Center, burn survivors and their families and works with Scripps, a private, nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego.

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