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Surgical drains can be cumbersome but they have an important role, siphoning fluids that naturally form at the surgical site away from the body. Preventing post-operative fluid build-up helps to promote healing, decrease discomfort and discourage infection. Surgical drains may be needed after mastectomy or breast reconstruction.
Fluid travels through the tubing that is sutured at the incision site on one end and connected to a plastic bulb at the other end. The bulb creates a vacuum that gently suctions and collects the fluid. During your recovery at home, the fluids must be measured and emptied periodically during the day. Before you are discharged from the hospital, a nurse will explain how to do this and how to clean the bulb and tubing. The tubes remain in place for a few days or weeks, depending on your procedure and how much fluid collects; your plastic surgeon will remove them when the amount of fluid has sufficiently decreased.