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Surgical Drains after Mastectomy

Most women undergoing mastectomy will have drains for seven to ten days following the surgery. It looks somewhat gross, but these tubes do an important job by draining the fluid accumulation that develops after the operation. Without the drains, fluid buildup could cause problems with swelling, infection and pain.

The drainage tubes will extend out of an incision on each breast. At the end of each tube there is a rubber ball with a flip-top stopper that stores the fluid. Do not be alarmed to see that the fluid is bloody. It will begin to get less red as each day passes after surgery. You will need to routinely empty the storage ball and measure the amount of fluid that you are producing. Many doctors will use this information to decide when the drains can be removed. It is expected that the amount of drainage will decrease slowly.

Many times the hospital will give you the plastic measuring cup that they were using for you during your hospitalization. If not, you will need to use a plastic one that can be discarded afterwards. Keep track of the amount of fluid you remove from the drains each day. These measurements need to be given to your surgeon during your first post-op visit. The amount of the drainage helps them determine when the drains will be removed.

Post-Surgical Tank Top (with pockets for drains): A patient navigator at my hospital told me about a post-surgical tank top that had small pockets to hold the drains. This increased my comfort level significantly. Without this pocketed top, you will need safety pins to fasten the drains to your clothes.