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Drainless Tummy Tuck: What Is It?

Drainless tummy tuck differs from the traditional one by the way the patient is stitched up. The technique eliminates fluid buildup which allows a surgeon to not use drainage tubes. As a result, patients after drain-free tummy tuck experience quicker and more comfortable recovery.

Are you thinking of having a tummy tuck? If so, you are not alone as tummy tucks (abdominoplasty) are one of the most performed cosmetic surgeries in the United States and according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 118,210 were performed on men and women in 2019.

A traditional tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a very popular procedure but it has always been known to have a fairly hefty recovery. There have been some improvements in recent years and now having a “drainless” tummy tuck is an option.

Drainless Tummy Tuck Vs. Traditional Tummy Tuck

Tummy tucks are performed to restore separated abdominal muscles and fix loose or sagging abdominal skin. This loose skin may be a result of a significant weight loss or pregnancy, etc, that could not be remedied through diet and exercise.

Traditionally, they have been performed by making an incision along the bikini line area, removing excess skin, tightening the abdominal muscles, and inserting temporary drainage tubes into the skin between the layers to prevent fluid from accumulating and causing seroma or infection which can alter surgery results. These drains require aftercare for up to a few weeks while the patient recovers at home and requires a return trip to the doctor’s office for removal.

Video: What Is a Drainless Tummy Tuck?

Drain-Free Tummy Tuck Technique

A study published in The Aesthetic Surgery Journal by Pollock and Pollock documented results of using progressive tension sutures instead of drains following tummy tucks in patients.

Progressive tension sutures are stitches that are placed not only along the incision line but are placed in many layers, causing tension to be distributed over a specific and wide area of the abdomen.

Progressive tension sutures close the space where fluid would normally accumulate and eliminates the need for drains.

Is a Drainless Tummy Tuck Better?

Comparing to traditional abdominoplasty, tummy tuck without drains has the following benefits:

  • Lower risk of infection. In the aforementioned study by Pollock and Pollack, the incidence of seroma is greatly reduced when there are no drains involved. The study showed the abdominoplasty procedures with drains had a 2% to 26% rate of seroma while the ones performed using progression tension suture were only 0.1% to 4%. Simply stated, fewer patients had complications from infections when no drains were used.
  • No drain-related aftercare. Drains need cleaning and maintenance during recovery such as emptying a few times a day, as well as keeping track and recording the amount of drainage for your doctor.
  • Showering is allowed after just a few days vs. a week or more. The inability to shower for an extended period of time is one of the most common complaints from patients regarding surgeries that require drainage tubes.
  • Standing, walking, or sitting upright is achievable much faster than during a recovery that involves drainage tubes.
  • Reduced scarring. You will have a scar after having a tummy tuck and your surgeon will take great care to make it as discreet as possible. When there are no drains used, incisions tend to heal more smoothly because they can stitch a bit tighter for good closure.
  • Can be combined with liposuction. Many people have liposuction to contour some of their “problem areas” during their tummy tuck. Often, patients receive better results than they would with just the tummy tuck. Since there are no drains along the incision during the healing process, the results are smoother.
  • Improved comfort level. Sitting and sleeping are more comfortable as drains tend to pull on the skin and cause discomfort. Patients report less pain and swelling at the incision area and an easier recovery period than traditional tummy tuck patients.
  • Less Follow-up. No removal of drains or stitches is necessary.
  • Easier to wear clothing. The drains each have a bulb on the end, resembling small grenades, that collect fluid and are not very easy to hide. These bulbs need to be emptied multiple times during the day. Depending on the type of tummy tuck you have you may start feeling well enough to return to work after a short amount of time however if you are unable to find anything to wear that will camouflage these bulbs, you may have to delay your return to work.

How Does a Drainless Tummy Tuck Work?

The “tummy tuck” portion of the surgery is the same in both scenarios only differing in the way the patient is stitched up.

After receiving anesthesia a horizontal incision will be made above your pubic region. The incision length will be determined by the amount of skin that is being removed. A mini tummy tuck requires a smaller incision than a full or extended tummy tuck. Any lax muscles will be tightened and excess skin removed. Then if necessary your belly button will be repositioned and stitched in place. Next, your incisions will be closed using progressive tension sutures and will be drainless. When surgery is complete you will be taken to recovery and from there most patients go home the same day.

Aftercare And Recovery From Drain-Free Tummy Tuck

Recovering from a drainless tummy tuck is a bit easier and slightly faster than a traditional tummy tuck. You will be given instructions by the surgeon on the dos and don’ts for a speedy recovery.

Week 1

The first week you will be uncomfortable but it can be managed with pain medication. You must not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk until told otherwise. You may need to get help for the first few weeks if you have little children because you will not be able to pick them up.

You will be wearing a special bandage that will help hold everything where it is supposed to be and your surgeon will give you instructions on how and when to wear it.

You should take short little walks around the house to keep the blood flowing and minimize swelling, however, that first week you are advised to take it easy.

Week 2

During the second week, you will start feeling a bit better and the surgeon may clear you to perform some light duties and/or return to work if it is not physically demanding. Because there are no drains, it is much easier to walk, stand up straight and you will feel better faster.

Week 3

After about the 3-week mark, most people feel almost back to normal and can resume most of their schedule. The surgeon will clear you when you are ready to perform vigorous activities, rigorous exercise, or heavy lifting.

Read next: 4 Myths About Pregnancy After a Tummy Tuck.

It is important to eat a healthy diet and incorporate exercise into your lifestyle to maintain your figure. Your goal is to maintain your weight and not lose or gain too much to keep your tummy looking great.

Are You A Candidate For A Drainless Tummy Tuck?

Most people who fit the criteria for a regular tummy tuck are candidates for a drainless tummy tuck. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Angelina Postoev to discuss your best aesthetic options, contact our offices today.

Angelina Postoev, MD, FACS, a triple board-certified cosmetic surgeon, and Christopher Ibikunle, MD, FACS, offer drainless tummy tuck surgery to men and women in Lawrenceville, Suwanee, Johns Creek, Buckhead, and other surrounding areas of Atlanta, Georgia.

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