Adverse Events of Surgical Drain Placement: An Analysis of the NSQIP Database

Abhinav Talwar, Ashir Bansal, Gabriel Knight, Juan Carlos Caicedo, Ahsun Riaz, Riad Salem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Surgical site drainage is important to prevent hematoma, seroma, and abscess formation. However, the placement of drain placement also predispose patients to several postoperative complications. The aim of this study is to clarify the risk-benefit profile of surgical drain placement. Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS-NSQIP) Procedure-Targeted Databases were used to identify patients who underwent hepatectomy, pancreatectomy, nephrectomy, cystectomy, and prostatectomy. Patients who underwent each procedure were divided into 2 groups based on intraoperative drain placement. Propensity score-matched cohorts of these 2 groups were compared in terms of postoperative adverse events, readmission, reoperation, and length of stay. Results: Hepatectomy patients with drains experienced organ space infections (P <.001), sepsis (P <.001), and readmission (P =.021) more often than patients without drains. Patients who underwent pancreatectomy and had drains placed experienced wound dehiscence less frequently than those without drains (P =.04). For hepatectomy, pancreatectomy, nephrectomy, and prostatectomy populations, patients with drains had longer lengths of stay (P <.05). Matched populations across all procedures did not differ in terms of reoperation rate. Discussion: Prophylactic surgical drain placement may be associated with increased infectious complications and prolonged length of stay. Further studies are needed to elucidate the complete adverse event profile of surgical drains. Nonetheless, outcomes may be improved with better patient selection or advancements in drain technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Surgeon
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • critical care
  • general surgery
  • surgical infection
  • surgical quality
  • wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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