Seromas are some of the most frequent complications after breast surgery, including cosmetic breast surgeries as well as mastectomy procedures. A seroma is a gathering of fluid in the chest. The fluid that gather is known as serous fluid, and it is produced by the lymph nodes and other tissues beneath the skin. It is the same light yellow fluid that fills blisters.
After breast surgery, the formation of a seroma is not uncommon. It is particularly likely after undergoing mastectomy surgery that involved the removal of lymph nodes in the armpit. It is expected that half or more of these mastectomy patients will develop a seroma after surgery. While most seromas after breast surgery occur in the wound formed during surgery, in mastectomy patients it could develop in the armpit area as well.
Most surgeons treat seromas by placing a drain in the incisions. These are used to remove the excess fluid from the breast area. If no drain was placed in the incision after surgery, the excess fluid can also be removed via a syringe in the doctor's office during a followup visit. Several subsequent visits may be required to drain excess serous fluid.
Other surgeons take a different view on how best to treat seromas in breast surgery patients. For example, recent research has explored whether injecting steroids may keep seromas from forming. Still, however, most surgeons treat seromas after breast surgery by draining the excess fluid.
This may not be required if the seroma is small and is not causing discomfort. The excess fluid is usually absorbed by the body within a few weeks or months. Some surgeons try to avoid draining the seroma with a needle, as this leads to a slightly elevated risk for infection.
If draining the excess fluid does not seem to be working, your surgeon may recommend a surgical treatment. Though more invasive than using drains or a syringe, it may become necessary if the seroma grows overly large, becoming uncomfortable. The original breast surgery incisions will be used to remove the implant temporarily to allow the surgeon to clean the implant pocket. The implant will then be replaced and drains will be inserted in the incisions.