Seromas are a common side-effect of surgery, especially in the breast and abdomen.
Living with a seroma can be challenging. Luckily, treating a seroma isn’t too tricky. In dire cases, you may require a doctor’s attention on how to help a seroma reabsorb.
But most seroma reabsorption treatments can be conducted at home. Let me offer a detailed explanation of what seromas are and how you can enhance seroma reabsorption.
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What is Seroma?
Seromas are our body’s way of compensating for the empty cavity that’s left behind after the removal of tissue and cells. They are most commonly seen after breast surgeries, particularly those related to the removal of cancer cells.
Once the surgical procedure is over, the body realizes that a part of it has been removed. So, to make up for this removal, the body produces extra fluid to “fill up” the empty, tissue-less space. Part of this fluid, called serum, comes from the leftover seroma fluid inside damaged and dying cells in the area.
The onset of infection may closely follow the development of seroma. This isn’t always the case, of course, but infections are common when the surgical site isn’t taken care of. Infection may also arise due to bleeding caused by damaged blood vessels (mainly capillaries).
The average seroma site will be filled with clear, colorless serum (as opposed to blood and lymph, which occurs during infections, mainly).
A seroma should not be confused with the following:
- Hematoma is when blood fills in the empty cavity left behind after surgery (no serum).
- Lymphoceles, which include lymphatic fluid. Uninfected seromas do not contain lymphatic fluid but rather only serum.
- Abscess, in which pus collects instead of serum.
A seroma is more like an observable fluid-filled sac underneath the skin. Telltale signs of a seroma include reddening of skin near the place where surgery occurred. The skin may also become warmer than usual or swell up. Visible swelling is the most common sign of a seroma. Before I move to how to help a seroma reabsorb, let’s get some more details.
One may also experience skin tenderness or notice a clear fluid (serum) appear over the skin. Serum may surface from the surgical site – like a sac that’s secretly leaking. Bacterial infections are also common, especially after mastectomy.
Smaller seromas tend to drain away on their own, and you don’t have to worry about how to help a seroma reabsorb. Here, drainage refers to the process of serum being reabsorbed into the skin or surrounding tissue. However, some seromas require careful treatment and drainage assistance. This is typically true for larger seromas that tend to leave behind a “hard knot if left untreated.”
These hard knots refer to calcification (the accumulation of calcium) in the seroma site. Unfortunately, calcification can have serious side effects, including organ function interference. Whether or not this will happen depends upon where the calcification has occurred. The nearer it is to an organ (as opposed to adipose tissue), the more likely it will cause damage.
How do Seromas Develop?
Seromas often develop after the following surgical procedures:
- Mastectomy, which is typically related to breast cancer
- Axillary surgery
- Abdominal surgery, including abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
- Reconstructive surgery, including plastic surgery
- Removal of lymph nodes
- Hernia surgery
Related: What is Hiatal Hernia?
The excess serum is often drained after surgery (through drainage tubes). However, research suggests that early drainage (within 24 hours post-surgery) can help the seroma grow instead of deflating. Otherwise, you will end concerning about how to help a seroma reabsorb.
Seromas typically begin forming once these post-surgery drainage tubes have been removed. It’s different for every individual, but the seroma generally becomes fully visible 7 to 10 days after the procedure.
How to Help a Seroma Reabsorb?
Most seromas will reabsorb on their own. Still, You can take specific measures to facilitate the reabsorption process.
A warm compress can help stimulate blood and lymph flow around the seroma. Heat encourages vasodilation, which refers to the widening of blood vessels.
Vasodilated vessels allow for increased reabsorption of serum into these vessels. It also stimulates blood flow, which in itself has healing properties. This is because blood carries nutrients and oxygen, both of which help with tissue formation and healing.
Compression of the seroma includes applying moderated amounts of pressure to the swollen site. This physical action encourages the movement of serum, which is “pushed down” into the body.
Of course, this is a simplified way of looking at things – seromas won’t go away simply through compression. The reabsorption process is also affected by other elements, like vasodilation (as discussed above) and massages.
Regular massages help stimulate blood flow, similar to a warm compress. They also encourage the healthy function of the lymphatic system, which plays a vital role in the reabsorption of serum.
When to See a Doctor
Though most seromas will go away with casual home remedies, including regular massages and warm compresses, this isn’t always the case. You may require seroma antibiotic treatment.
Here’s when you should see a doctor regarding your seroma:
If the seroma is noticeably large
A smaller seroma – like one that’s the size of a grape – can be healed at home. But anything larger should ideally be checked out by a qualified medical professional. Avoiding the doctor can lead to hard knots caused by calcification or even infection.
Infected seromas should be shown to the doctor as soon as possible
Internal infections can spread remarkably fast, especially when they’re in contact with blood vessels. This is because damaged blood capillaries cause most seroma infections. When an infection develops and a broken capillary presents, the infection can easily enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.
It may also affect the lymphatic system, which is in charge of helping the body combat infections.
Avoid this by reaching a doctor when you notice excessive tenderness, puss, body pain, fever, or related extreme symptoms. Remember, uninfected seromas may feature reddish skin and tenderness, but infected ones will elevate these symptoms.
If the seroma has recently been exposed to non-sterile needles, see a doctor.
Needles are commonly employed in the medical seroma reabsorption process. Though most healthcare providers will make sure to use sterile equipment, people practicing needle-assisted reabsorption at home may accidentally use an infected needle. If your seroma begins to itch, swell, or leak puss, there’s a chance it might be infected with bacteria.
If the size isn’t shrinking and the seroma keeps refilling
Larger seromas may take months to heal – some can even take up to a year or more. Smaller ones are usually gone in under a month. If you feel like your seroma has been around for too long and isn’t shrinking at all, see a doctor about it.
Home Remedies and Treatments on how to help a seroma reabsorb
Below is a set of home remedies that can help on how to help a seroma reabsorb. Carefully check these methods of how to treat seroma naturally.
Hot packing includes applying heat to the seroma and irritated area. If you’re trying it at home, try using a clean, moist towel or gauze pack. Either option can be dipped into a large bowl of clean, warm water and then carefully twisted to remove excess liquid.
When the cloth or gauze is warm and moderately wet, carefully place it over the swollen area. When the material begins to cool, repeat the heating process by dipping it into a bowl of warm water.
This heat or ice for seroma practice should be performed multiple times a day, for 10-15 minutes at a time.
As previously discussed, regular massages can help encourage serum reabsorption. And it also answers how do you get rid of seroma naturally. When massaging for reabsorption purposes, try to tread around the swollen area gently. Pressing your hands over it could irritate the seroma – it’s better to use a proper compress instead.
Massages are best when accompanied by a hot pack. Hot packs aid in vasodilation, which promotes blood flow. Massages also encourage healthy blood flow. When this blood flows near or around the seroma, it provides the area with chemical components required for healing and tissue regeneration.
Improved blood circulation also facilitates serum reabsorption, which, in turn, helps with seroma drainage. YOu can consider seroma and exercise for this.
This is why massaging around the seroma helps more than massaging the seroma itself. The serum needs to drain away from the swollen area and into blood vessels in the surrounding area.
Compression garments can help on how to help a seroma reabsorb. Applying controlled pressure to the area post-surgery can help “push” the serum into the body.
Avoid applying high amounts of pressure, though! If you wear a too tight or ill-fitting garment, you risk cutting off your blood supply from the swollen area. This won’t help with reabsorption because reabsorption requires blood flow, as does tissue regeneration and overall post-surgery healing.
Consult a specialist if you’re confused about which garment to wear or how tight it should be. Many women prefer wearing bras that have a tight fit (not too tight, though!). This helps with seromas present after mastectomy in the chest region. Medical-grade compression garments are also readily available at pharmacy stores.
Common Seroma Treatments
Needle aspiration is a popular seroma treatment. However, doctors will only recommend this if they feel that a particular seroma requires needle-assisted care.
You can only practice needle aspiration if the seroma is not infected. It is usually recommended for individuals with larger seromas that have negatively influenced their mobility and function.
Seromas causing pain or extreme discomfort may also be subjected to needle aspiration.
However, needle aspiration does not guarantee complete removal of serum, but only enough to make the seroma less uncomfortable.
Procedures and Tests
A doctor may recommend a CT scan or ultrasound to help determine a seroma. Many healthcare professionals choose to skip the scans and rely upon physical examination instead.
In dire circumstances, they will likely recommend a needle aspiration. In needle aspiration, the doctor will insert a syringe into the seroma and carefully use it to remove serum from the area.
However, if the seroma isn’t affecting your movement or causing severe pain, the needle aspiration procedure won’t be recommended. For most seromas, simple heat packing, compression, and regular massages should suffice on how to help a seroma reabsorb.
Should you compress a seroma?
Yes. Seroma compression can facilitate reabsorption of serum and deflate of the seroma. Wearing a compression garment is the most reliable way to provide moderate pressure to the swollen region.
Avoid directly pressing upon the seroma. This can lead to bruising and discomfort.
How can I help my body absorb a seroma?
Help your body reabsorb seroma serum by applying a hot pack, wearing compression garments, and getting regular massages.
What happens if you don’t drain a seroma?
If you don’t drain a seroma that isn’t going away on its own, you risk developing a “hard knot.” This is caused by calcification (calcium deposits) in the area that once contained just serum.
Do warm compresses help seromas?
Warm compresses help seromas to heal. Not only will it improve drainage and reabsorption, but it will also help soothe the skin around the seroma.
Can I drain a seroma myself?
You can drain a seroma yourself at home. Use a heat pack, compression, or massage to facilitate the process. Needle aspiration is generally practiced by doctors only and will be prescribed to you if required.
Can Urgent Care drain a seroma?
Urgent Care centers may help with seroma drainage if they feel it is necessary. Some centers may send you back without needle-assisted drainage simply because they believe your seroma will go away on its own, and you don’t have to worry about how to help a seroma reabsorb.