Types of Drainage Tubes


There are certain times and certain situations in the medical field that require a physician to enter a drainage tube into a patient, or a patient's organ. Drainage tubes can be life-saving, draining away unwanted fluids from an organ, or from a part of the body that does not need fluid there. Sometimes, drainage tubes are needed because there is too much fluid collecting around it, due to trauma. Drainage tubes are used at different times, and in different situations, to help patients heal, and, in some cases, they are a matter of life and death. Only a doctor knows when inserting a drainage tube would be beneficial, and possibly life-saving.


A drainage tube is exactly what it sounds like: it is a tube that drains fluids. There are a few different types of drainage tubes, and there are several different reasons why a patient might need one. A drainage tube is usually only used in extreme medical situations when the patient is at greater risk of having complications from a collection of fluid around an organ, over the risk of inserting a drainage tube. Drainage tubes are used either for short periods of time, which doctors would prefer, but sometimes they must be in longer (when it is difficult for the doctor to get the drainage under control).

Why Are Drainage Tubes Needed?

Most often, drainage tubes are used due to the fact that there is a collection of fluid on an organ that shouldn't be there, and this collection could be life-threatening to the patient. Many times drainage tubes are used during surgery. When organs are operated on, there can be an excessive amount of blood and fluid that collects in the cavities of the body, and around organs. This fluid must be drained. If the fluid is not drained, potentially life-threatening consequences can ensue.

Types of Drainage Tubes

One type of drainage tube is a chest tube. This is used when there is a collection of fluid around one or both lungs. It is inserted directly into the chest from an opening created in the patient's side. Catheters are drainage tubes that are inserted into the bladder. These tubes drain the urine from the bladder so the patient does not have to get up and use the bathroom, or is unconscious, or maybe having surgery. There is another drainage tube called a Y-shaped drainage system. This one is typically used after cardiac surgery where one portion is placed in the pericardial space, while the other end is placed in the pleural space. This tube helps to ensure that fluid does not build up around the heart after open-heart surgery.


Although there may not be a choice in whether or not you get a drainage tube of some kind for one medical reason or another, remember that the doctor is ordering it for your best interest. If the doctor is ordering a drainage tube, it means that your body needs help getting the excess fluid out of it, or there is an organ in trouble due to the collection of too much fluid. Although the tube may be uncomfortable, it is probably worth the discomfort of the tube, rather than the discomfort (and potential danger) from a collection of fluid around an organ.


Despite all precautions when inserting a drainage tube into a patient by a doctor, there are many things that can go wrong, and they can be dangerous. One danger is that another organ can be punctured while inserting the drainage tube. There can also be internal bleeding with this problem, and because of this, the tube will not suction the fluid from the puncture or injury, correctly. This accidental puncturing may cause blood or fluid to build inside of the patient's cavity, and can be life threatening. Another warning to be aware of is that sometimes, despite all care given when inserting the tube, bacteria can get in with the tube and cause severe, potentially life-threatening infections. The doctor may have to order antibiotics to keep infection away.

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