Different Types of Fluid Drainage After Surgery

After surgery, your body produces a lot of extra fluid. It's your body's beautiful way of saying, "I've got you, sister, and here I am, coming to your rescue." Your body naturally produces extra fluid to cushion the blow after trauma to the body. This is a good thing. Thank you, body!

However, after surgery, whether elective or non-elective, you want to get back to your normal, PRE-surgery state. You want to feel like yourself again. Healthy, vibrant, mobile. You don't want to feel and be hindered by, the firmness and numbness in your belly… behind your knee, under your armpit... nor anywhere else this fluid is pooling to "fight" for you.

Thank you very much, you just want it GONE. 

This is where extra assistance may be necessary to help your body drain all this fluid. This is where the help of a lymphatic drainage specialist can come in handy. I write a lot about this technique elsewhere on this website. It's what I do, what I believe in, and what I enjoy doing.

I've witnessed my past clients feel a lot of relief and healing from the Vodder technique of lymphatic drainage, my specialty.


There are other types of drainage, though...

Some doctors implement other aids.

Depending on the surgeon and the patient, exterior bulb-type drains may be necessary. These are plastic bulbs that collect fluid outside the body. The internal tubes collect fluid near the most likely drainage area inside the body and allow it to flow outside. This fluid is usually pinkish in color; a mix of a little blood and some serous fluid. 

I am well-versed in working with and around these exterior bulb tubes and drains. Often, I am massaging tissues around the drainage points, where the visual and visceral effect is most obvious. The patient (my client) is advised to measure the fluid output of these bulbs near this area. When the fluid drainage slows to a level that is acceptable by the doctor, then the drains are removed. This is usually within a week of surgery. Then the body then takes over to begin internal drainage and absorption of fluid.

Most women expect a lymphatic drainage massage to increase the flow into the exterior bulbs and hasten their removal. This is true. There is often an upsurge in fluid collection inside these bulbs after a lymphatic drainage massage. You may also urinate more, or sweat more, or have that post-op bowel movement you’ve been sorely wishing for. Lymphatic massage is your friend in more ways than one!

But there is another way of draining a trauma site, and this is what I want to talk about today. 


What is Incisional Drainage?

Sometimes, a surgeon may elect to recommend drainage through the incision points on your body before those incisions close on their own.

The way I understand it is, the incision points are holes from which something called serosangineous fluid drains after surgery. Some surgeons choose to stitch them closed and allow the body to absorb the fluid via lymphatic vessels. Others allow these incision holes to stay open so that fluid naturally weeps out for up to two weeks. Sometimes these incisions drain through tubes to bulbs, as described above; and sometimes they are drained by incisional drainage techniques.

The therapist who is trained to facilitate this drainage will in fact re-open the incision points and poke a Q-tip-type stick into the incision and encourage fluid to drain out. In a series of poking and lancing techniques, the incisional therapist drains the fluid to the outside of the body. The patient stands on a pad that collects and absorbs fluid easily (like a blue puppy pad), and the fluid that is released is collected on the pad at her feet. This is uncomfortable for the patient in the short term, but it relieves the body of extra drainage internally, and sometimes even lessens the likelihood of bruising and swelling. 

Let me say, in a very intuitive way, I understand the necessity of this technique. Let's be honest, we have all experienced times when you just know the body is not going to absorb whatever fluid or waste material that's accumulating close to the surface of the skin.

Who hasn't had a version of lancing a boil or blister; "popping a zit"; or squeezing a blackhead out from the surface of the outer epidermis? This is done when you know the body is not going to take up the fluid on its own.

There is enough evidence that the body is trying to release this material to the outside so that it doesn't have to deal with it internally. In fact, that's why you know it's there in the first place... the body can't ––or won't––reabsorb this waste. It must be expelled to the outside. 

Some of the most reputable surgeons advise their patients to receive this type of drainage after their lipo and other types of surgery.

In certain circumstances, and according to the surgeon’s preference, this method of drainage facilitates healing before manual lymphatic drainage finishes the job.  But... just so you know... This is incisional drainage is something I do not do. 

I do not have training in it, nor do I imagine I'd enjoy performing this technique because it is painful for the client, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. I have no judgment about it, though. I intuitively understand this technique. 


Lone Star Lymphatic's Scope of Expertise

Most of my clients come to me on the recommendation of their doctor, who views lymphatic drainage as an integral part of post-op healing. Others find me after doing their own research, or after reading posts on Facebook or other post-surgical forums. (By the way, these forums can be very useful, but they can also raise sooo many worries about possible rare events. Those who have had uncommon and unusual outcomes from surgery seem to be the most likely to share on social media. Just beware.)

Some women contact me with expectations that I am not qualified to address. Let me explain.

Lone Star Lymphatic is in the business of lymphatic drainage. I was trained in the Vodder Technique, which is the medically accepted technique for draining lymphatic fluid toward the lymph nodes for internal filtering of lymphatic fluid and all the toxins it contains. 

I also research ways to reduce inflammation before and after surgery so that the effects of swelling and inflammation and infection are reduced. I am focused on preventative ways to reduce swelling (Hello, diet!), as well as ways to encourage the body to take up its own trash. 


A Misnomer in the Medical Industry

Lymphs is only referred to as  "lymph" after the interstitial fluid makes its way into the lymphatic vessels. You don't call the fluid that is pooling around a wound, "Lymph." It is NOT lymph. When someone refers to incisional drainage as "lymphatic drainage" they are using the wrong terminology. I get occasional requests for lymphatic drainage when what the woman actually expects and wants is incisional drainage.

I am happy to help, offer guidance, and to work with your incisional drainage technician. However, at this time, I do not do incisional drainage. Please call me after this part of your post-op care is finishing up. I'll be happy to come to your home and offer relief as your body begins to heal and drain from the inside

And as always, I'm happy to talk with you about your surgery, your post-op care, and whatever else you have on your mind. Healing from surgery is a multi-pronged approach. You know your body best. I'd like to help in any way you think is beneficial. 

Although I am interested in manual incisional drainage to complement my lymphatic drainage practice, I am not trained in the former technique at the moment. If I decide to get training, you’ll be the first to know!

Call 512-351-3329 and I'll get back to you within 24 hours. 

Before getting lipo or any cosmetic surgery, I recommend understanding how your surgeon views drainage in general, and what her stance is on external versus internal drainage.


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