What is normal drainage after surgery?

Surgery can be a major undertaking, and the healing process afterward can be equally daunting. One aspect of post-surgical recovery that people often have questions about is drainage. What’s normal? When should you worry? And what exactly does “drainage” mean anyway? Well never fear because we’ve got all your answers right here!

Drainage 101

Before we dive into what counts as “normal” drainage, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what drainage actually is. Any surgical procedure involves making incisions in the body – whether it’s to remove something or repair something. These incisions are usually closed up with sutures (stitches) so that they can heal properly.

In some cases, though, there may still be some fluid leaking out of these incisions after surgery has been completed – this leakage is known as drainage. Some degree of drainage is almost always to be expected after any sort of surgical procedure; however, its extent can vary greatly depending on factors such as the type of surgery performed and how many incisions were made.

How Much Drainage Is “Normal”?

When it comes to assessing appropriate levels of post-operative drainage, one key factor to consider is time elapsed since surgery was performed. In most cases, significant amounts of drainage will only persist for a few days immediately following an operation – beyond this point it would likely indicate that there’s something wrong going on.

Ultimately standard values depend largely upon which surgical site it being treated but here are guidelines for some common surgeries;

Type Of Surgical Procedure Safe range
Abdominal procedures Below >50ml per day
Cardiac procedures Around >100-150 ml/day
Orthopedic Surgery Below >30–240 mL/first 24 hours & >200 mL/day afterwards
Breast Surgeries Below >30ml per day

Remember that these are just rough guidelines, and your doctor may have more specific information based on your individual situation.

What Should You Look Out For?

While some drainage is normal following surgery, there are certain signs to look out for that indicate it could be something problematic. It quickly becomes important to pay attention so that you can bring any concerns up with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Here’s what to watch for;

Change in Color

The color of the fluid coming out of an incision is a good indicator of how healthy it looks. When examining discharge, there will always be a bit of pink due to blood mixing with other fluids however aa consistent change towards yellow or green would suggest infection.

Excessive Amounts

We’ve mentioned this above – if you’re having too much draining then things might not be going well within the site. This could lead a person/life-threating complications such has hypovolemic shock (this occurs when low blood volume leads o compromised flow affecting oxygenation)

Odor & Texture Changes

Healthy drainage should virtually odorless; However, should strange smell arise accompanied by very viscous texture signals bacterial growth


If you’re experiencing post-surgical drainage it is necessary, but keep track of how much and its quality changes ensures prompt proper treatment leading tp successful recovery .