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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a seroma?

A seroma is a pocket of clear fluid that develops after surgery or an injury. The fluid can collect in tissues or under the skin. Breast, neck, and abdominal surgery are the most common causes of a seroma. A drain used after surgery can also lead to a seroma if it fails or is removed too early. A major surgery or a surgery used to remove tissue increases your risk for a seroma.

What are the signs and symptoms of a seroma?

  • A swollen lump that may be tender or sore when you touch it
  • Clear fluid coming from the incision site
  • A hard knot in the incision site if the seroma hardens

How is a seroma diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will examine the surgery or injury site to check for signs of a seroma. A CT or ultrasound may be used to confirm that you have a seroma. A small seroma may go away without treatment. You may need any of the following to treat a large seroma:

  • Antibiotics may be given if the seroma becomes infected with bacteria.
  • Aspiration is a procedure used to remove the fluid. Your healthcare provider will use a needle to draw out the fluid. You may need to have this done several times.
  • A drain may be placed to remove the fluid. An existing drain may need to be moved to a different area.
  • Sclerosis is a procedure to help the seroma close. Liquid antibiotic or other medicine is injected into the seroma through a drain. The liquid sits for 30 to 60 minutes and then is removed through a needle. This causes the seroma to close.
  • Surgery may be used to remove the pocket of fluid if other treatments do not work.

What can I do to manage a seroma?

  • Check your surgery site for signs of infection. These include swelling, red skin, or pus. Infection may mean that the seroma is developing into an abscess (pocket of pus). You may need surgery to treat an abscess.
  • Follow your healthcare provider's activity instructions. Your healthcare provider will tell you if it is safe for you to exercise and do your daily activities while you have a seroma. He or she will tell you which activities are right for you and how much activity to have each day. You may also need to limit certain movements if your seroma needs to be drained.
  • Wear pressure devices, if directed. Pressure devices include pressure bandages and binders. Your healthcare provider will tell you which device to use and how long to wear it each day.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You see pus, watery blood, or fluid coming from your surgery site.
  • Your surgery wound comes open.
  • You have a high fever.
  • You have severe pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in the surgery site.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You have a lump near the surgery site, or the area is tender.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a mild fever that does not come down with medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.