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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2013 Apr;39(4):334-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejso.2012.12.022. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Breast cancer surgery without suction drainage: the impact of adopting a 'no drains' policy on symptomatic seroma formation rates.

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  • 1Department of Breast Surgery, City Hospital, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, Dudley Road, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK.



To determine the effect of a 'no drains' policy on seroma formation and other complications in women undergoing breast cancer surgery.


Before May 2010 drains were routinely used in our unit following mastectomy ± axillary surgery and axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) ± wide local excision (WLE). Since then, a 'no drains' policy has been adopted. Data was collected prospectively between 01/12/06 and 30/11/11 to compare symptomatic seroma, wound infection, re-admission and re-operation rates in women treated with a drain and those without.


596 women were included in the study. 247 women underwent modified radical mastectomy (MRM) and ALND (Group 1), 184 MRM ± sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB)/axillary node sampling (ANS) (Group 2) and 165 ALND ± WLE (Group 3). In group 1, 149 had a drain, in group 2, 62, and in group 3, 50. Within each group, the presence or absence of a drain did not significantly affect the rate of symptomatic seroma, number of aspirations performed, wound infection rates or the incidence of complications requiring re-admission. Having a drain was associated with lower volumes of seroma aspirated. In all three groups, the presence of a drain was associated with a longer hospital stay (p < 0.001).


This study suggests that MRM ± ALND/SLNB/ANS and ALND ± WLE can be performed without the use of suction drains without increasing seroma formation and other complication rates. Adopting a 'no-drains' policy may also contribute to earlier hospital discharge.

Copyright © 2013. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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