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A seroma is a pocket of clear serous fluid that sometimes develops in the body after surgery. When small blood vessels are ruptured, blood plasma can seep out; inflammation caused by dying injured cells also contributes to the fluid.
Seromas can sometimes be caused by a new type of partial-breast radiation therapy, as explained in a recent article in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.
Seromas can also sometimes be caused by injury, such as when the initial swelling from a blow or fall does not fully subside. The remaining serous fluid causes a seroma that the body usually gradually absorbs over time (often taking many days or weeks); however, a knot of calcified tissue sometimes remains.
Seromas are particularly common after mastectomies, abdominal surgeries, and plastic surgery like face lifts. The neck area is usually affected and swells requiring it to be drained. Many patients find that it makes their initial recovery period more difficult, and some need repeated visits to their doctor to have the seroma fluid drained.[unreliable source?]
Seromas or lymphatic leaks (lymphoceles) may be difficult to manage at times. Depending on the volume and duration of leakage, control of a leak may take up to a few weeks to resolve with aspiration of serums and the application of pressure dressings.
If a serum or leak does not resolve, for example after a soft tissue biopsy, it may be necessary to take the patient back to the operating room in order to place some form of closed suction drain into the wound. This usually is not necessary and conservative management prevails.
- Schwartz's principles of surgery: self assessment and board review, 8th edition, chapter 11, patient safety, errors, and complications in surgery
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