Now that you had surgery, drains are your new BFF?

At the risk of sounding like I’m standing on a soapbox, I shall repeat my mantra once again . . . how well you follow up with your post-op aftercare instructions is nearly as important as what we do in the OR. Following these protocols conscientiously can ensure a positive outcome just as ignoring them can sabotage your final results.

Remember, the doctor and the patients are a team.

This is particularly true of drains. When you wake up from surgeries involving deep incisions and dissections involving an appreciable amount of surface area such as of abdominoplasties (tummy Tucks), facelifts and browlifts you’ll likely have one, two or sometimes even three tubes coming out of small incisions, each attached a suction bulb drain. They’re unsightly, true. They’re inconvenient, yes. They can be messy, absolutely. But for the duration – and this can be anywhere from 1 to ten days – that you’ll be living with them, your drains are your new body’s BFF or at least very trusted ally!

Let’s back up a minute. When surgery is performed, it is a fact that the innumerable microscopic blood vessels and lymphatic channels are cut. As a result they leak fluid in the postoperative period. Consequently, any space that was surgically created (for example, between skin and deeper muscle layer) can fill up with this fluid as opposed to getting rapidly absorbed by the body. Drains are placed within this surgically created space in order to rapidly evacuate the fluid as it is produced. The fluid in your drain, which will diminish over time, is comprised of a physiological mixture of blood and serum. As you empty the drain twice a day, recording the amount of fluid tell us the rate of decreasing fluid production and how your body is healing.

The advantages of sporting your drains for the prescribed time cannot be underestimated. Removing drains too quickly can result in untoward fluid accumulation in a surgical space potentially necessitating uncomfortable intervention afterwards to remove it. Leaving drains in the body for the appropriate amount of time will actually decrease your healing time by minimizing fluid buildup and prolonged swelling by fostering rapid adherence of the various layers to close the surgical space.

Drain connected to a self suction "grenade" style collection chamber
Drain connected to a self suction “grenade” style collection chamber
So please keep these in mind during the initial phase of your recovery if you find yourself getting annoyed. Soon enough, you’ll be in the office and we’ll remove them. Meanwhile, if you can view your drains in a positive light rather than as an unpleasant burden, it’ll make all the difference in the world.