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The Drainless Tummy Tuck

May 13, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About “Quilted” Tummy Tucks, From The Experts

Tummy tucks ranked as one of the most popular cosmetic surgical procedures performed nationwide last year. Here at Donaldson Plastic Surgery, our surgeons performed more than 135 tummy tucks in 2020 alone! Tummy tucks create a beautiful new silhouette by removing excess skin and tightening the abdominal muscles, and new methods and modalities are emerging to improve the patient experience and recovery process. Dr. Donaldson explains one of these techniques: the “drainless” or (sometimes referred to as the “quilted”) tummy tuck.

Tummy tuck being performed
Dr. Donaldson and his surgical first assist, Bobbie, in the O.R.

What Does “Drainless” Mean?

The purpose of a tummy tuck drain

Commonly, tummy tucks will include a drain in the recovery process. This drain is tubing that is temporarily left in the abdominal cavity after surgery, meant to remove excess fluid in between the skin and muscle tissue. The production of liquid after a tummy tuck is expected due to the space created during surgery and the body’s natural response to injury (this is what happens when your body swells). The body can naturally absorb this liquid; however, since the tummy tuck results in more liquid than the body is used to, the drain is a helpful aid for the body’s recovery.

How a drainless tummy tuck is performed

In order to not use a drain, the surgeon must avoid leaving the space between the skin and the muscle tissue. This is typically done in combination with glue and a “quilted” suturing technique. Through quilting, the surgeon is able to distribute the liquid from the anticipated swelling evenly. This removes the tension from the incision while also closing the gap between the skin and the muscle tissue.

How can I go drainless? Is a drainless tummy tuck safe?

Drainless tummy tucks are completely safe when they are performed by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. The recovery experience for both kinds of tummy tucks is generally the same. Your surgeon will recommend which route will be most beneficial for you, as there are benefits to both.

Pros and Cons of a Drainless Tummy Tuck


When pursuing a tummy tuck, the results are at the forefront in making your decision on which surgeon to choose. Drainless tummy tucks and traditional tummy tucks will produce the same results. You will also experience a similar timeline in terms of your recovery and when you will see your results.

Benefits of a drain

Drains have their own benefits as well. The purpose of a drain is to remove abdominal fluid, which will help to avoid any possible buildup that may occur with a drainless tummy tuck. If you experience buildup after a drainless tummy tuck, you will need to come into the office to have the area surgically drained. A drain might save you that trip into the office.

Benefits of a drainless tummy tuck

Both patients and surgeons alike may prefer a drainless tummy tuck for the following reasons:

  • No drain-site irritation.
  • No need to take measurements of fluid output or empty your tube.
  • Avoids the inconvenience of carrying the drain around.
  • Avoids an additional in-office appointment for the removal of the drain.
  • Overall, less for you and your body to contend with during the healing process.

It is important to note that there can be fluid buildup after a drainless tummy tuck. This is not uncommon, and in this case, the patient will need to come into the office for a physical exam and possible draining of the area. Wearing the provided compression garments is especially important for drainless tummy tuck patients to help avoid this fluid buildup and aid with the joining of the skin to the muscle tissue.

Dr. Donaldson surgical sutures
Dr. Donaldson suturing after surgery.

Your Drainless Tummy Tuck Experts in Columbus, OH

Some patients are better candidates than others for a drainless tummy tuck. The final decision to use or not use a drain will be left up to the surgeon that you choose, sometimes in the operating room. The surgical incision, size of the field, and amount of drainage that the patient is expected to produce are the main factors in determining if the surgeon will use a drain.

Your surgeon can review the benefits and disadvantages depending on your own individual needs. Your first step is to schedule a consultation to develop a customized treatment plan. Dr. Donaldson and Dr. Sieffert would love to meet with you to discuss a tummy tuck and if you would be a good candidate for drainless!

Jeffrey Donaldson, MD Author Bio

About The Author

Jeffrey Donaldson, MD is a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in performing both drain-in and drainless tummy tuck surgeries. He has helped thousands of patients decide which method is best for their unique circumstances before performing their successful surgery and helping them live more confident lives. Dr. Donaldson remains at the forefront of all new tummy tuck techniques and works to share his findings with both patients and industry colleagues.