How to Care for a Jackson-Pratt Drain


After you undergo surgery, your doctor may insert a drainage tube, called a Jackson-Pratt drain, into your skin to collect and remove body fluid. Tubing connects the collection bulb to the drainage site. Periodically, you must strip the tubing, empty the bulb and change the dressing on your skin. Most patients must perform these maintenance tasks every eight to 12 hours. Your doctor will show you how to care for the Jackson-Pratt drain before you leave the hospital.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Measuring cup
  • Cotton balls
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Saline solution
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Dressing
  • Scissors
  • Safety pin

Strip the Drain

  • Grasp the tubing close to your skin firmly to hold it in place. Exert only enough pressure that you do not pull the Jackson-Pratt drain out of the skin while you strip it.

  • Place your thumb and index finger on the tubing just below where you are holding it with your other hand. Squeeze the tubing until it lies flat.

  • Guide your fingers down the tubing, continuing to squeeze it, until you reach the bulb. Release your fingers and the hand holding the tubing near your skin. Repeat this several times until the tubing appears clear of fluid.

Empty the Drain

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after each time you handle the Jackson-Pratt drain.

  • Remove the plug from the bulb and pour the contents of the bulb into a measuring cup. Squeeze the middle of the bulb to ensure all of the contents empty into the cup.

  • Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and clean the drainage plug with it.

  • Squeeze the bulb so it lies flat and reinsert the plug. The bulb should remain flat when you release it to provide for suction action.

  • Write down the amount of fluid in the measuring cup, as well as the color of the fluid. Indicate the day and time of these measurements. This helps the doctor evaluate how well you are healing and when to remove the drain.

Change the Dressing

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and gently remove the dressing from around the drainage site. Discard the dressing and rewash your hands.

  • Clean the skin as directed by your doctor. He may instruct you to use hydrogen peroxide or a 0.9 percent saline solution. Apply the product to a sterile cotton ball and gently wipe the area.

  • Apply an antibiotic ointment if your doctor has instructed you to do so. Place the ointment on a new sterile cotton ball and apply it to the skin.

  • Cut halfway into a new dressing. Make the cut halfway across one side of the dressing, cutting toward the center. Use sterile scissors.

  • Place the dressing on the drainage site, positioning the tubing within the slit in the dressing. Use medical tape to fasten the dressing to your skin and rewash your hands.

Tips & Warnings

  • Empty the measuring cup containing the fluid into the toilet.
  • Open a safety pin and pass it through the plastic loop on the bulb. Pin the bulb to your clothing. This can help ease any discomfort by preventing the drain from pulling out from the skin.
  • Notify your doctor immediately if you see any signs of an infection, including increased pain, redness or swelling around the drainage site. Symptoms may also include a fever and the odor of pus from the drainage.
  • Call your doctor immediately if the Jackson-Pratt drain comes out of your skin, the bulb fills with air or you notice drainage around the drainage site, rather than in the bulb and tubing.
  • Keep the bulb lower than the drainage site to prevent fluid from re-entering your body.

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