Drains are tubes that are left under the skin during an operation. They are used to remove pockets of fluid that can accumulate. After any surgery, the tissues ooze fluid to a certain degree as they heal. Fluid collections during healing can sometimes lead to infection.
Despite this some areas are more prone to collections than others and not all surgeries need drains. Usually drains are removed within a week or so when there is little fluid coming out. The fluid enters a small clear bulb that looks like a grenade.
The idea of removing a drain scares patients, but it is more often described as a weird sensation not a painful one.
As patients are better educated about the surgeries they are considering they come in asking about drains.
“Are you a one drain surgeon or a two drain surgeon? Do you use drains at all?”
The answer is yes, no and maybe. The use of drains is often a call of clinical judgment. I tell all of my patients that if I think a drain is necessary I will leave one but for most of the surgeries I perform they are not needed:
Facelift- sometimes, depends on the extent.
Breast Lift/Reduction- usually no
Breast Augmentation- no, never as of this writing.
Tummy Tuck- often but not always, usually one, rarely two. Depends on multiple factors.
Brachioplasty/Thigh Lift- rarely
Other surgeries on case by case basis.
So, like anything I do, drains are a judgment call based upon what I see at surgery, the type of surgery and patient type. They can be a nuisance for patients so I avoid them when I can, but the benefit still in the right cases makes them important.