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Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications, Types, Procedure

Updated on June 12, 2014
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently studying lab sciences. She enjoys researching various health topics and writing about her findings.

What is a tummy tuck?

There are many reasons why people undergo the medical procedure abdominoplasty, or more popularly known as tummy tuck. The number one reason though is to lose those sagging belly fats. This gives you a flatter abdomen by removing excess fats and skin. The abdominal muscles on the wall also tighten with this procedure. That is why it is a very popular procedure for the females. It makes their bodies look like its pre-pregnant state.

Take note, however, that tummy tuck is not a weight loss program and should not be used as one. Also, if the female intends to have a pregnancy again, she should delay a tummy tuck procedure until such time that she has no more plans of having a baby. There is also a possibility of having a long scar after a tummy tuck so consider these things before you undergo the procedure.

Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications, Types, Procedure
Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications, Types, Procedure | Source

The procedure

There are two types of tummy tuck. One is complete abdominoplasty and the other one is partial or mini-abdominoplasty. A complete tummy tuck is done surgically by having a horizontal cut from hip to hip. The procedure takes about 4-5 hours. Most of the time, it will involve moving your belly button. Usually, a draining tube or hose is placed in the surgical site to drain excess fluids after the surgery.

A mini abdominoplasty can take only approximately 1-2 hours. This is preferred for those who have belly fats under the navel only. In this case, the belly button is not moved.

Both types would require general anesthesia. Generally, tummy tuck is a safe procedure. However, sometimes complications occur. One such complication is seroma after tummy tuck.

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What is Seroma? and Seroma After Tummy Tuck

As with all surgical procedures, there is the possibility of damaging blood and lymphatic vessels due to the incision causing the fluid inside, known as serum, to leak. The color of the fluid is yellowish. The leak could lead to an accumulation of fluid in the dead tissue part. This is seroma. A seroma after tummy tuck is not an infection or an error committed during the surgery. Sometimes, the fluid just accumulates and the body cannot drain it by itself. A seroma after tummy tuck is not an abscess too, however if left untreated, it could turn into one. Seromas are not also hematomas or pooling of blood.

A seroma after tummy tuck occurs because of large tissue disruption. You could also acquire seromas through undergoing extensive surgeries or blunt accidents. A seroma after tummy tuck would not cause any alteration on how your body looks after the surgery. After treatment of the seroma, the desired outcome of the tummy tuck would still be achieved.

Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications, Types
Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications, Types | Source

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Can seromas be prevented?

Studies show that by providing a hemostatic therapy to the patient, a seroma after tummy tuck could be prevented. Hemostatic is an agent that prevents the secretion of blood and other body fluids. Or sometimes, a binder placed on the surgical wound is ordered to prevent unnecessary movement on the wound and promote quicker recovery. Binder could also minimize the presence of dead tissue and it could provide the abdominal support after the surgery. Spraying surgical adhesive in the flap of the skin after the surgery eliminates the space in the scar where seromas can form is also found to be helpful. There are cases though, that even observance of these could still lead to the formation of a seroma after tummy tuck.

Types of seroma

The seroma could be small or big. Seromas, especially the small ones, can resolve by themselves without any treatment. However, there are times when they would calcify and become hard knots. The doctor could manually remove the fluid by aspirating it with a needle, especially if the seroma is not that big. This may require several trips back to the doctor, however. Aspiration of fluid is done by inserting a needle and pulling the barrel, causing the fluid to be transferred into the needle and syringe. Do not be anxious that this would be painful. Actually, the site of the seroma would be numbed for several months up to six months. A sterile technique in aspiration however is a must or else, it could infect the site. At other times, the doctor would just incise on the seroma itself and drain the fluid.

On the other hand, if the fluid is quite large in amount, a surgical drain tube with bulb suction device may be placed instead. This tube should be observed for the amount, color, and smell of the fluid and would be in place for about two weeks or lesser, depending on the accumulation of fluid. Placing surgical drain tube is not a guarantee though, that a seroma would not form. Sometimes, seroma occurs when the surgical drain tube is removed. The tube too could be a source of infection. Daily inspection is necessary to maintain infection free drainage.

Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications
Seroma After Tummy Tuck – Signs, Prevention, Complications | Source

Signs of impending infection

Impending infection of seroma after tummy tuck has the following symptoms. There would be the presence of abscess or wound with pus on it and the smell could be foul. Take note of other discharges other than pus, like blood. There could also be the presence of fever. The body’s increased temperature is a response of the body to the foreign bodies, like bacteria and toxic microorganisms, inside the body. There would be increased production and delivery of white blood cells, histamine, and prostaglandins on the infection site to fight off the foreign harmful microorganisms. Severe pain on the surgical site might also occur. Any one of these is an indication that an infection is occurring and could lead into greater complication so seek medical help immediately. An antibiotic therapy would be needed. Sometimes, another surgery is required to remove the seroma.

Complications of seromas

Although it is not unusual to develop one after surgery, extra care should be exerted that proper monitoring is done. As soon as you notice that a seroma formed after your surgery, report it to health care provider. Try to observe if the seroma is getting bigger. Also, if the site is getting redder in appearance, there is increasing warmth, swelling or inflammation. Seroma causes the delay of healing of a surgical wound. You could have unsightly scars. There is also the danger of the surgical would to open up, the medical term for this condition is wound dehiscence. When the wound opens up, it could lead to further medical condition thus, another surgery is required to close the wound. Untreated, unmanaged infection of the seroma could be life threatening and even fatal, so immediate care and management is vital.

New developments

There is an undergoing study of how liposuction right after a tummy tuck could help prevent the formation of seroma. Liposuction removes excess fat under the skin. This would allow better circulation and lesser damage to the blood and lymphatic vessels. According to the research, this would prevent the occurrence of dead tissues where the fluid could accumulate, thus preventing seroma to form. Nowadays, tummy tuck and liposuction are done together. The patient usually appreciates the effects, smaller and more contours abdomen, plus appearances of seromas are lessened compared to doing tummy tuck only. The combined procedure however, does not claim hundred percent freedom from the formation of seromas.

Last words on seromas

Seromas are nuisances and can cause anxiety, depression and delayed healing to the patient who had undergone a tummy tuck. However, early management could prevent infection and further complications. Only infected and left untreated complicated seromas would warrant an emergency. Most of the time, the patient does not need to be alarmed with seromas.

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    • Penny G profile image

      Penny Godfirnon 2 years ago from Southern Iowa

      I have had a tummy tuck, it went well. I do on occasions have belly button soreness as they moved mine.