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swelling around incision

Seroma a swelling around the incision

Neuro Corner Answers

Dr. Andrew Isaacs
DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
Dogwood Veterinary Referral Center

Primary interests include intervertebral disc disease, seizure management, luxations/fractures of the spine, and surgery for brain tumors



Has anyone here had experience with seromas over incision site following surgery? My Rosie developed one 5 weeks after surgery. She seems ok otherwise. The vet drained it and gave antibiotics but it refilled almost immediately. Has seemed to have gone down a bit already, and I read the body eventually reabsorbs it. I am just worried there is an issue with the healing or this indicates she has reinjured herself?


When performing spinal surgery the superficial layers of tissue are disrupted to expose the deeper structures (vertebrae/spinal cord).

After the procedure is complete the tissue layers are closed with absorbable suture.  However, these layers are never apposed exactly as prior to surgery and there is the potential for serum (the fluid component of blood) to fill in the voids and create a seroma.  Also, as activity is reintroduced movement can cause irritation and promote the formation of a seroma.

A seroma will appear as a swelling around the incision and feel like fluid is trapped under the skin.  A seroma is not an infection. The fluid is trapped in the superficial tissue far away from the spinal cord.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely to cause any significant problems.

Seromas typically resolve on their own over 1-2 weeks if the pet is kept quiet.  However, it is best to have your veterinarian examine your pet to make sure nothing more concerning is occurring.  Your veterinarian may advise warm compresses to help increase circulation and absorption of the fluid.

In cases not responding to conservative management, it may be necessary to drain the seroma.  Rarely, if draining is not working, surgery is required to address the seroma.

The take home is if you appreciate any abnormalities with the surgical site to notify your vet.  If your vet finds a seroma it is not anything to get overly concerned about and is, with the majority of cases, just a speed bump on the road to recovery.

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