Drains vs No Drain Cosmetic Surgery Options

Surgery Drains vs No Drains in Cosmetic Surgery Procedures

Cosmetic surgery patients strongly prefer “drain-free” surgery procedures. I want patients to feel as comfortable as possible during their recovery. I also want to improve their recovery time frames when possible. So I rarely use surgical drains in my cosmetic procedures.

I prefer NOT to use surgical drains, when possible. This often helps patients have a less painful or speedier recovery process. But NOT all Surgeons are familiar with using advanced, drain-free cosmetic surgery techniques. Additionally, some patients may still require the use of drains.

Which procedures can be performed FREE from surgical drains?

  • The answer to this is that it VARIES
  • However, many plastic surgery procedures CAN be performed WITHOUT drains
  • Various factors may go into DRAIN vs NO-DRAIN surgery decisions

Surgical drains were once routinely used regardless of actually being warranted.

Why do patients PREFER not to have drains?

Patients appreciate that drain-free procedures CAN offer:

  • less discomfort during recovery (better sleep)
  • fewer incisions for the drains/tubes
  • less skin disruptions as they heal
  • less risk of wound infection linked with drain tube introduction of bacteria

Drain-free cosmetic surgery techniques AVOID unnecessary drain-tube incision(s) and related healing risks.

This can help reduce complications linked with drain use.

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Why I Avoid Using Surgery Drains

Reason 1: Patient Comfort vs Pain During Recovery

  • Surgery drains can be very uncomfortable or/or painful
  • They also lead to more incisions and painful drain-tube extraction(s)
  • These can delay healing and recovery times AND increase wound exposure to contaminants

Reason 2: Infection Risks and Surgery Drains

  • Drains may introduce infections into treated areas, such as  incision lines and wounds
  • Drain tube extraction also risks tissue damage and/or vessel damage

Reason 3: Tissue Damage and Drain Extraction Pain

  • Drain tube extraction (drain removal) after surgery can be quite painful
  • Drain(s) and/or drain tubing can also result in tissue disruption (scars and skin indentations)
  • Tissue damage after drain tube extraction can impede the appearance of your results

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Excerpt from an article in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery describing risks of drains:

“Drains can malfunction, introduce infection into the wound, leak, become misplaced, and entail extra incision and scarring. They create tracts at the site of removal, necessitate painful extraction, and risk injury to vessels on removal.”  [Jones, Barry M. F.R.C.S.; Grover, Rajiv F.R.C.S. (Plast.); Hamilton, Stephen F.R.C.S. (Plast.)]

How Drains Can Delay Surgery Recovery

  • Insertion and extraction of drain tube(s) may lead to infections and/or unwanted bleeding at surgical sites
  • Delayed skin recovery can also compromise results
  • This may frustrate patients wanting to return to exercising as quickly as possible
  • Research supports that routine drain use CAN be avoided by using advanced techniques
  • So, I focus on techniques that provide greater comfort and reduced infection risks

Are Drains Necessary for Most Plastic Surgery Procedures or Abdominoplasty Surgeries?

Research suggests routine use of drains is often unnecessary for cosmetic surgery.
  • Drain tube extractions may increase some complication risks, delay recovery and increase scarring
  • But every patient’s scenario and health is unique
  • As a result, in some cases, drains may be required 

Summary: Many advanced techniques by Plastic Surgeons allow for drain-free surgery procedures.


For further information, contact us and request an appointment and/or one of our Cosmetic Surgery Guides.

Phone 0388491444 today or send an enquiry form.

Medical Journal References and Resources

Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. February 2010. Abdominoplasty Flap Elevation in a More Superficial Plane: Decreasing the Need for Drains. Volume 125. Issue 2. Page 677-682. [online] Authors: Fang, Robert C. M.D.; Lin, Samuel J. M.D.; Mustoe, Thomas A. M.D. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2010/02000/Abdominoplasty_Flap_Elevation_in_a_More.33.aspx (accessed February 2019)

Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. February 2010. Abdominoplasty with Suction Undermining and Plication of the Superficial Fascia Without Drains: A Report of 113 Consecutive Patients. Volume 128. Issue 4. Page 973-981. [online] Authors: Rodby, Katherine A. B. S; Stepnaik, Jennifer B. S. N; Eisenhut, Natalie A. R. N. P; Lentz, Carl W. III M. D. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2011/10000/Abdominoplasty_with_Suction_Undermining_and.32.aspx (accessed February 4th 2019)

Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery. 2008. Hematoma Rates in Drainless Deep-Plane Face-Lift Surgery With and Without the Use of Fibrin Glue. Authors: Zoumala, Richard, M D; Rizk, Samiek S., MD. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamafacialplasticsurgery/fullarticle/406488 (accessed February 4th 2019)

Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. July 2007. The Efficacy of Surgical Drainage in Cervicofacial Rhytidectomy: A Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Trial. Volume 120. Issue 1. Page 263-270. [online] Authors: Jones, Barry M. F.R.C.S.; Grover, Rajiv F.R.C.S. (Plast.); Hamilton, Stephen F.R.C.S. (Plast.) Available from: https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2007/07000/The_Efficacy_of_Surgical_Drainage_in_Cervicofacial.38.aspx (accessed February 4th 2019)