As with anything in life, plastic surgery patients are thrilled when a procedure offers the best results without the hassle. But, when getting a major surgery like a tummy tuck (it’s also known as an abdominoplasty), this kind of convenience can be a lot to ask for. Fortunately, there’s a modernized player to the tummy tuck game that is able to give us the ease we’ve admittedly been so eagerly waiting for.
The drainless tummy tuck, which Concord, CA plastic surgeon Eric Mariotti, MD says “lessens the amount of maintenance patients have to do post-procedure,” is a driving force in his recent uptick in patients: “People really want to know if the results are just as good as they would be with drains, and they’re happy to learn that they really are.”
A drainless tummy tuck is, essentially, exactly what it sounds like: a tummy tuck performed in a way where patients don’t have to deal with the hassle of fluid drains post-operation. The biggest benefit of this improved operation? The recovery process is much easier.
A seroma is a collection of fluids that build up under the skin and cause discomfort after surgery and is highly common after a normal tummy tuck. “In a normal tummy tuck, you need drains to take the fluid of your body so that liquid doesn’t collect in a space and cause a seroma,” says Dr. Mariotti. Once the drains come out, however, is when the fluid may begin to collect.
“In a no-drain technique, we use sutures on the backside of the skin to physically sew the skin down to the muscle, obliterating or closing off that space so there is no room for fluid,” says Dr. Mariotti, adding that his rate of seromas has decreased since he stopped using drains.
“With a traditional drain technique, the exit sites of the drain have to heal. The drains are either going to be placed below the scars, so you’ll have a little scar where the drain came out of the skin, or through the scars, which may or may not make the scar worse at that spot,” explains Dr. Mariotti.
Although the drainless technique still leaves a scar, Dr. Mariotti says he has noticed the scars generally have healed nicer than that of a normal tummy tuck. “Since this technique involves sutures on the underside of the skin—a technique called progressive tension—there is much more tension taken off of the scar, which makes them look much thinner and better-looking than they did when I used to do the drain technique.”
A more manageable recovery
Dr. Mariotti explains that the main results are roughly the same with and without drains, but the postoperative period is often easier with the drainless technique.
He notes that the psychology of not having drains in can have a significant impact on a patient’s recovery, as well. “If you look down and you don’t have bloody fluid collecting, a tummy tuck seems like a much smaller procedure,” says Dr. Mariotti. “When it feels like a smaller procedure, you tend to feel like you can get up and move around more, so there’s some psychology of having no drains—patients just tend to get moving quicker without them even though the drains should have no impact on (easy) movement whatsoever.”
“I tell my patients the recovery from a drainless tummy tuck can be faster for a number of reasons. One is they don’t have drains hanging out that they have to empty and take care of all the time. The second reason, which is just as important, is that without the drains patients ofter feel like they can get up and move around more, and sooner, which speeds up the recovery.”
Although normal tummy tucks are just as effective, be sure to ask your provider if a drainless tummy tuck could be a better option for you.