Urban Myths in Plastic Surgery: Postoperative Management of Surgical Drains

Jimmy H. Chim, Emily A. Borsting, Seth Thaller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background. Surgical patients are frequently discharged with surgical drains to assist in wound closure that could be disrupted by postoperative hematomas, lymphoceles, or seromas. In clinical practice, duration of drain use is typically dependent on daily output. Objective. The aim of this paper was to examine the origins and justifications of drain removal criteria. The authors considered factors that may influence recommendations such as duration, area of surgical site, and risk of infection. Methods. A literature review was performed regarding the indications for drain removal in patients undergoing reconstructive and breast surgeries. PubMed was queried for publications up to May 2015 with the following search terms: drain removal, hematomas, lymphoceles, seroma, volume, reconstruction, and mastectomy. Clinical trials, retrospective reviews, meta-analyses, and literature reviews were included. Results. Most plastic surgeons remove drains based on volume criteria; however, some evidence supports early, fixed-duration drain removal. Patients who produce large volumes of fluid from the surgical site are more likely to continue to do so after drain removal and may require increased duration of drain use. Surgical site surface area may also be a factor to consider when pulling a drain. Conclusion. Though drain-associated infection rates are low and appear unaffected by duration, poor outcomes such as implant loss and need for reoperation may be mitigated by antisepsis strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-39
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • hematoma
  • lymphocele
  • seroma
  • surgical drain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Medical–Surgical

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