How a Water Seal Drainage System Works

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Water seal drainage systems can be used to drain air and fluid from the chest.
Water seal drainage systems can be used to drain air and fluid from the chest. (Image: an X-ray of a chest image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com)

Water seal drainage systems, or chest drainage systems, treat medical problems in the body’s pleural cavity -- the space around the lungs. The device uses a chest tube and multiple bottles or chambers to drain air and fluid from the body, allowing a compressed lung to re-expand.

Components

Among drainage systems, the most common found today consists of three bottles or chambers, along with tubes that connect the bottles to one another and the first bottle to the patient.

How it Works

The system connects a chest catheter to tubing that drains into a bottle or collection chamber. The second bottle, the water seal chamber, contains a small amount of sterile fluid with tubing submerged in it, draining air and fluid into the system without re-entering the chest. The third bottle controls suction, or the rate at which the system draws air and fluid from the body, with a final “exit” tube that allows air to escape.

Considerations

The medical practitioner must connect the bottles to one another before connecting them to the patient and check for bubbling in the water seal chamber, which indicates an air leak, according to Teleflex Medical. Traditional systems must remain upright and level with the patient’s chest, to avoid drawing fluid back into the chest.

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