Current use of drains and management of seroma following mastectomy and axillary surgery: results of a United Kingdom national practice survey

Katherine J Fairhurst*, Kirsty A Roberts, Patricia Fairbrother, Shelley Potter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Up to 40% of the 56,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK undergo mastectomy. Seroma formation following surgery is common, may delay wound healing, and be uncomfortable or delay the start of adjuvant treatment. Multiple strategies to reduce seroma formation include surgical drains, flap fixation and external compression exist but evidence to support best practice is lacking. We aimed to survey UK breast surgeons to determine current practice to inform the feasibility of undertaking a future trial.

An online survey was developed and circulated to UK breast surgeons via professional and trainee associations and social media to explore current attitudes to drain use and management of post-operative seroma. Simple descriptive statistics were used to summarise the results.

The majority of surgeons (82/97, 85%) reported using drains either routinely (38, 39%) or in certain circumstances (44, 45%). Other methods for reducing seroma such as flap fixation were less commonly used. Wide variation was reported in the assessment and management of post-operative seromas. Over half (47/91, 52%) of respondents felt there was some uncertainty about drain use after mastectomy and axillary surgery and two-thirds (59/91, 65%) felt that a trial evaluating the use of drains vs no drains after simple breast cancer surgery was needed.

There is a need for a large-scale UK-based RCT to determine if, when and in whom drains are necessary following mastectomy and axillary surgery. This work will inform the design and conduct of a future trial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Early online date25 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an NIHR Academic Clinical Lectureship (CL-2020-25-002) for Katherine Fairhurst. Shelley Potter is an NIHR Clinician Scientist (CS-2016-16-019). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK National Health Service or National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


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