Your board certified plastic surgeon is the best person to ask for a specific recommendation if a drain is needed or recommended after your tummy tuck procedure.
I determine whether or not to use drains on a patient-by-patient basis. Often my decision is to use drains if liposuction is done at the same time as a tummy tuck or if an extensive tummy tuck is required, for example, following massive weight loss. In those situations I have found an increased chance of having a fluid collection called a seroma, or prolonged swelling, delaying the final result by weeks. Use of a temporary drain seems to prevent this from happening.
Those plastic surgeons that do not use drains for these more involved surgeries often rely on extra “quilting stitches” internally which lengthens the procedure and requires external elastic garments that may be uncomfortable. These garments, if too snug, can also apply too much pressure on the lower skin flaps, decreasing blood flow with delayed healing or other problems.
The purpose of drains is to remove excess fluid such as tumescent liposuction fluid, irrigation fluid, local anesthesia, blood/serum, etc., so that the superficial skin flap can touch the underlying deep tissue (muscle) to begin the healing process. With drains, I do not find it helpful to use compression garments or binders while drains are in place and sometimes not at all especially for “mini tummy tucks.” This is more comfortable for my patients.
Typically, drains are removed within 10 days but if you had significant liposuction done at the same time, it may be a bit longer. In general when each drain has less than 30 cc’s of drainage over 24 hours they are removed. Have trust in your surgeon’s recommendations but feel free to ask the rationale of their decision.