Seroma is a complication that can occur after any surgery, being characterized by the accumulation of fluid below the skin, close to the surgical scar. This accumulation of fluid is more common after surgeries in which the skin and fat tissue have been cut and manipulated such as in plastic surgery, abdominoplasty, liposuction, breast surgeries or after cesarean section, for example, being the result of an inflammation not caused by the procedure but by the body's defense mechanisms.
A small seroma can be reabsorbed naturally by the skin, resolving itself after about 10 to 21 days. However, in some cases, you may need to have a small procedure done by a doctor that consists of inserting a syringe under the skin and doing a puncture to remove the excess fluid. To reduce this complication, it is recommended you use bands, bandages or dressings after surgery, so as to help the healing process. See all the cautions to follow with a c-section scar.
Main signs and symptoms
The presence of a seroma can be identified if the following signs and symptoms are present:
- Transparent or clear fluid existing under the wound;
- Local swelling;
- Fluctuation in the scar area;
- Pain in or around the wound;
- Redness and increased temperature in the area surrounding the wound.
There may be a reddish or brown coloring when the seroma is mixed with blood, which is more common soon after surgery, and tends to become clearer as the healing process continues.
As soon as signs of a seroma are noticed it is important to see a physician so that an evaluation can be made and, depending on the severity, treatment should be initiated.
When does a seroma emerge
A seroma usually arises during the first 2 weeks after the surgery, and is due to the accumulation of fluid in the dead space between the layers of the skin. After the appearance of the symptoms that indicate seroma, it is recommended you talk to the surgeon so he can evaluate the situation and see if treatment is needed.
When the seroma is not treated, the accumulated fluid that is under the wound may harden, forming an encapsulated seroma, leaving an ugly scar. Treatment is also important because the seroma can get infected, forming a scar abscess, releasing pus, which has to be treated with antibiotics.
How is treatment done
The treatment for a seroma is only needed when there is a great accumulation of fluid or when pain emerges, because it the less severe cases the body reabsorbs the excess fluid. However, when it is necessary, the fluid is removed using a syringe or a drain placement, which is a small tube put underneath the skin until it touches the seroma, allowing the fluid to drain.
If you need pain relief, a doctor can prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, for example.
On the other hand, treatment for an encapsulated seroma is more complicated, requiring you apply corticosteroids or surgery for its removal. Ultra cavitation is also a method that can be used because it is based on a high power ultrasound that is able to reach the region that needs to be treated and creates reactions that stimulate the elimination of the fluid.
In cases where the seroma gets infected, the treatment is usually done with antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. In the case of an encapsulated seroma, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the fluid and to make the scar look more beautiful.
The home treatment aims to prevent the seroma arising and to treat it quickly as soon as the first signs appear. One of the home options is the use of a compression belt, depending on the type of surgery, and it is usually indicated after abdominal and cesarean surgeries.
It is important to ask the doctor about patches or ointments that can be placed on the scar, since they accelerate the healing process and reduce the swelling that usually arises after any surgical procedure. You can also ingest foods that stimulate and facilitate healing, such as orange, pineapple and carrot, for example. See our complete list of foods that favor healing.
What can cause a seroma
Seromas can arise after any surgery, depending on how a persons body recovers. However, this problem is more common in:
- Extensive surgeries such as breast removal in cancer cases;
- Cases requiring placement drains after surgery;
- Surgeries that cause lesions in various types of tissues;
- People who have previous history of seroma.
Although it is a very common complication, it can be avoided with some simple cautions like using a strap over the scar's location and avoid doing intense exercise without indication of the doctor.
If there is an increased risk of developing a seroma, the doctor usually puts a drain during surgery so that the accumulated fluid may leak out as the wound heals. See the main cautions to follow after an abdominoplasty in order to speed healing.