What Is A ‘No Drain’ Tummy Tuck?

Q:  Dr. Eppley, I have read more and more about people having a tummy tuck and the doctor did not use a drain aftewards. I am interested in getting a tummy tuck but the whole drain scares me. I just can’t get over the idea of having a tube sticking out of me. Is this a safe type of tummy tuck?  Are there additional risks to this procedure? Is there an additional cost to have a tummy tuck without a drain?

A:  Fluid buildups, known as a seroma, after a tummy tuck is common. The use of a drain is to prevent that build-up from occurring. A drain will stay until there is enough healing inside that the body stops producing so much fluid. Most drains stay in for a week to ten days after surgery. While drains are very effective at decreasing fluid-related problems, they obviously are an inconvenience to say the least. This has led to the concept of a ‘drain-free tummy tuck’ or a ‘no-drain tummy tuck’. This is slightly more than just not using a drain but an actual modification of how a tummy tuck is done.  Less skin undermining is done and the underside of the skin is sutured back down to the abdominal wall to decrease the open space where fluid can build-up. This does take more time to do and involves the use of more expensive suture. Whether a plastic surgeon charges more for this tummy tuck technique varies by the practice. I have done many tummy tucks with drains and some without. Some drainless tummy tucks do go on to build up fluid which has to be drained in the office later however…so the technique is not infallible.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana