Dr. Kirby's Blog

How do I know if I have a seroma? Watch for these signs of fluid accumulation after a tummy tuck

Tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is popular with men and women for its transformative powers and is a safe, dependable option when performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. That said, it is natural for extensive surgical lifting and shaping procedures to require special attention during recovery, as the body must cope with healing the underlying musculature and surface tissues. 

Seromas are the most common complication associated with tummy tuck surgery and Fort Worth tummy tuck patients often have questions about whether they are experiencing this condition after surgery. Here, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Emily J. Kirby answers the most frequently asked seroma questions from real tummy tuck patients.

Seromas are the most common complication associated with tummy tuck surgery.

Tummy tuck recovery in Fort Worth

After surgery, you will wear a fitted garment to encourage healing; you are also advised to wear compression socks to keep blood flowing smoothly in your legs. Stitches placed during surgery will dissolve on their own. Most tummy tuck patients will need drains to expedite your safe recovery.

You need to keep a slightly flexed posture at the waist for 2 weeks to avoid straining the incision and tightened abdominal muscles. Gentle walking is encouraged the day of surgery. The local anesthetic TAP block lasts several hours, making post-operative discomfort manageable. You may return to work and light activity within two weeks, however, strenuous activity is not permitted until 6 weeks after your procedure, if the recovery has gone smoothly. 

What is a seroma?

A seroma is a collection of fluid that builds up under the skin near the surgical site or where tissue was removed. This clear-yellow fluid is part of your body’s natural response to healing and may occur a few days to several weeks after surgery.  

Risk factors for a seroma after tummy tuck

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing a seroma after tummy tuck include:

  • Extensive surgery where a significant amount of tissue was disrupted or removed
  • Obesity
  • Family history of postoperative seromas 
  • Low protein intake

Do I have a seroma?

Seromas may appear as a swollen lump or water balloon and may be tender. Other common seroma symptoms include clear or yellow fluid draining from the incision site. Fluid that is thick or odorous may indicate that you may have an infection. If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately contact your plastic surgeon to advise you on the next steps to take. 

How do you make seromas go away?

Not all seromas need medical treatment. The body may reabsorb the fluid naturally or it may drain out through the skin’s surface within a few weeks. Your surgeon may advise a simple, in-office needle aspiration procedure to treat the seroma if:

  • Excessive amounts of fluid have collected. 
  • It causes discomfort or pain.
  • Strain is placed at the suture line.
  • Function and mobility is limited. 
  • The seroma is particularly large and may affect your results after healing.
  • The patient experiences a fever, blood pressure changes, or an increase in breathing or heart rate.

Seroma treatment at home

Patients can speed healing of mild seromas at home by following these steps:

  • Limit activity and utilize positions that are best for drainage. Slow movements are best.
  • Apply a warm compress 3x a day: heat encourages fluid drainage and reduces tenderness. Be sure to test the temperature somewhere you have full sensation first.
  • Keep the incision clean, ensuring your hands and compresses are clean before touching the skin. If drains are placed, avoid obstructing drainage by laying on the tubes or allowing the tubing to fold. 
  • Wear compression garments at all times unless bathing, until otherwise instructed. You will typically wear compression garments for several weeks. 

Can seromas be prevented?

Committing yourself to the recovery plan will likely lower the risk of seromas after your tummy tuck. It is not possible to prevent all occurrences of seroma development in every patient but an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon will have a thorough understanding of body anatomy and its response to invasive procedures, and will determine the best approach to safely achieve optimal results.

Tummy tuck techniques

Fort Worth Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Emily Kirby has extensive experience in performing tummy tucks and uses proven techniques to minimize postoperative complications such as progressive tension sutures and targeted liposuction to further reduce seroma formation and other complications.

Fort Worth plastic surgery

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Emily J. Kirby and the outstanding team at Kirby Plastic Surgery specialize in proven aesthetic and reconstructive procedures and are here to answer your questions, listen to your goals, and empower you on your plastic surgery journey. 

Dr. Kirby is also dedicated to creating an optimal patient experience; she designed City Surgery Center, our on-site AAAASF accredited operating suite, to support your safety and privacy. 

We invite you to call or text our office at 817-292-4200 or contact our practice online to schedule a consultation. 

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