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One of the most common questions patients have when considering breast enlargement is “are drains are going to be used?” Drains are thin rubber tubes that are placed during a procedure and exit through a small hole in the skin. The drain tube connects to a soft plastic container, about the size of an apple, and the container catches any fluid that normally builds up under the skin after surgery. The container can be emptied by a patient at home and the amount of fluid is recorded. After the fluid drainage amount is less than about 25 cc to 30 cc (about one ounce) during a 24 hour period, the drain can be removed in the surgeons office with a gentle pull.

While drains are commonly used in some plastic surgery procedures in an attempt to prevent fluid from building up under the skin at the site of surgery, they do have some disadvantages such as pain, discomfort, leaking, difficulty with normal activity, and possibly infection.

In breast augmentation, there is no evidence that drains offer any benefit or result in a better outcome. There are very few situations where a surgeon may want to place a drain when placing a breast implant:

  • Excessive oozing during surgery
  • Revision of a prior breast surgery
  • Removal of a capsular contrature
  • In some cases of breast reconstruction
  • To treat a seroma (fluid collection) that developed after surgery
  • When treating bleeding or a hematoma (blood collection) after surgery

So if your surgeon is planning on using drains in an uncomplicated breast augmentation, ask if it is really necessary in your case. It is one of those questions that is worth discussing before your procedure.

“In my experience with hundreds of breast augmentations, I’ve only used drains twice, both times in patients with more oozing at the time of surgery than expected. In both cases, the drains were removed the next day. Not using drains routinely allows my patients to have less discomfort and be more active right after their breast procedure.”

Karol A. Gutowski, M.D.

  • Copyright: Karol A. Gutowski, M.D., Chicago, IL, 2012