Do i need drain tubes after a breast reduction surgery?

Do i need drain tubes after a breast reduction surgery?

19th Oct 2018

There are certain postoperative protocols that need to be followed after different types of surgical procedures to avoid complications or ensure a fast recovery, and breast reduction surgery is no different. One of the questions I often hear from patients desiring to undergo the procedure is whether they will need drain tubes after the procedure. Some of them see it as an unnecessary complication, and they ask if we can avoid this. Well, the reality is that drain tubes are used exactly to avoid other complications. They don’t complicate things on their own.

In today’s article, we will discuss about the need for drain tubes and other post-op indications after a breast reduction surgery.

What does the breast reduction surgery involve?

The breast reduction procedure is mostly performed on patients under general anesthesia as it can take up to 4 or 5 hours, depending on the complexity of the case. When a significant amount of mammary gland tissue needs to be removed, the procedure is lengthier as it takes some time to reshape and re center the breasts after excision to avoid asymmetries.

The procedure involves the surgical excision of a smaller or larger part of the mammary gland, the skin tissue under the areolas, and the afferent fat layer. At the same time, because the excessive development of the breasts often has, as a result, expanded the areolar tissue, the plastic surgeon might also need to reduce the size of the areolas and reposition them.

Breast reduction surgery can be performed using different techniques that will be decided during the pre-operative consultation. The patient needs to know about the method chosen to reduce the size of the breasts as the scarring will be determined by this.

An often-performed mammary reduction technique is the one that leaves behind an anchor or an inverted T shape scar with an incision around the areolas as well. Three incisions are needed in this case: one is circularly performed around the areola, another one goes from the areola’s edge towards the inframammary fold in a vertical line, and the third one is positioned in the inframammary fold, horizontally.

In some cases, the breast reduction procedure can also be associated with liposuction, often performed on the axilla to remove excess fat tissue.

The role of drain tubes after surgical procedures

Some surgical procedures will require the use of drain tubes. Drainage is used to allow the elimination of liquids and blood from the tissues.

When the plastic surgeon decides there is a need to use drain tubes, they will be introduced in the patient’s body close to the surgical incision site. The drain tube will be connected to a bag that has the purpose to collect the fluids that leak through the tubes. This way we can monitor the liquid eliminated and take notes on the quantity and its appearance.

The surgeon can use drainage for a curative or preventive purpose. When used for a curative purpose, it allows the fluid or blood to be eliminated from a certain area of the body where it accumulated. The prevention purpose involves the evacuation of the fluid secretions that can occur shortly after a surgical procedure. This way we can avoid the risk of an infection in the area and accelerate the healing process.

The length of the usage of drain tubes is influenced by the purpose and also the evolution of each patient. The decision to remove the drain tubes is determined by factors such as lack of secretions or lack of infection signs.

While drainage is a surgical method commonly used, there are disadvantages associated with it as well. What can happen is for the body to perceive the drain tube as a foreign body and a local inflammatory process can occur until the drain tubes are removed. When the plastic surgeon decides there is a need for drain tubes after breast reduction surgery, the patient will constantly be monitored by the medical staff.

Usually, drain tubes are kept in place for no longer than 24-48 hours, but this depends from case to case. There is no extra pain or discomfort associated with having the drain tubes, so there is nothing for you to worry about. The plastic surgeon will be the one to decide when the drain tubes should be removed and will also be the one to remove them. It is very important not to try to get them out by yourself as an infection can easily occur.

Recovery process after breast reduction surgery

Many patients claim they felt more tension than pain on the chest after the procedure. Antibiotics and pain medication will be prescribed by the plastic surgeon to help you avoid infections and unnecessary discomfort. A special post-op bra needs to be worn non-stop for the first few weeks after the surgery and only during the day for the next months. It will provide much-needed support for the breasts and the compression required to reduce the swelling that naturally occurs after the procedure.


The post-operative period after breast reduction surgery is not overly complicated or uncomfortable for the patient if post-op protocols are followed and the plastic surgeon’s recommendations respected.

The plastic surgeon might decide to use drain tubes after your breast reduction surgery. The drain tubes are meant to help with the elimination of fluids and blood that can otherwise accumulate at the surgical site or trigger infections. The usage of drain tubes is a common surgical method required after different types of surgical procedures. The drain tubes will need to be in place for no longer than a few days. They will be removed by the surgeon when the leaking stops and no infections signs occur.

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