WHAT ARE SURGICAL DRAINS AND WHEN ARE THEY USED?
Surgical drains are required for procedures which involve a significant amount of dissection, lifting or undermining of soft tissues. Whenever a large amount of space is created in the body, the body tries to fill that space with fluid. If fluid is allowed to accumulate in these areas the skin and soft tissue would be unable to adhere and completely heal back down after being lifted up. In cases such as this, surgical drains are placed underneath the skin and soft tissues in order to help alleviate fluid accumulation. These drains are brought out through small holes in the skin, usually in a site away from the incision, and in an inconspicuous location. The tubes are stitched in place so that they cannot fall out. Thin tubes then extend outside the body and connect to a small plastic bulb which resembles a plastic version of a grenade. This small bulb fills with fluid slowly and gradually throughout the day. Drains usually need to be emptied two to three times a day and are left in place from one day to three weeks, depending on the surgical procedure.
Surgical drains are easily removed in the office by cutting the suture holding it in place and then simply pulling the drain out. Dr. Glatt only uses drains that are round in shape and therefore are painless to remove. In the past, drain removal was painful because old fashioned drains were flat in shape and therefore involved pulling a flat shaped object through a circular hole in the skin. Patients typically stay on antibiotics while their drains are in place. Dr. Glatt allows his patients to shower with their drains in place and has found no incidence of infection secondary to this. Procedures which most commonly utilize drains include abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), breast reconstruction surgeries, face lifts and occasionally breast reduction. Surgical procedures which never require drains in Dr. Glatt’s practice include breast augmentation, breast lift or mastopexy surgery, liposuction, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) as well as brow lift. Although surgical drains can be slightly uncomfortable due to the suture holding them in place, they are necessary for certain procedures to minimize recovery time, as well as to enhance healing and the overall result of the surgical procedure.
To schedule an appointment with Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Brian S. Glatt, MD, FACS, please call his office at 973-889-9300.