Caring For Your Jackson Pratt Drain

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The Jackson Pratt drain is a special tube put in place near the site of surgery to prevent body fluid from collecting.  It pulls the fluid into a bulb by suction.  The fluid can then be emptied and measured at the same time two times every day to keep track of the volume of the 24-hour output. 

How to care for the drain site

You will be told before discharge whether you need to change the dressing at your drain site.  If so, you will change the dressing one time every day and clean around it with a cotton swab and warm soapy water. 

If you are told to leave the dressing in place, please do so.  If the dressing comes loose, you should replace it with a split 4x4 gauze and tape.

How to empty your drain

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water and dry them before and after handling the drain.
  • Empty the drain two times every day, at the same times of day. Measure and record the amount of fluid.  
  • Pull the plug from the drain. Pour the fluid into a liquid measuring cup.  Squeeze the bulb flat.  While the bulb is flat, replace the plug into the hole.  The bulb should remain flat after the plug is replaced.  Record the drainage amount with date and time on the form on Page 3.
  • Flush the fluid down the toilet after measuring.

What to do at home

  • Watch for clots in the drainage tube. This can prevent draining.
  • Do not sleep on the same side as the tube.
  • Secure the tube and bulb inside your clothing with a safety pin to help prevent pulling.

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • new or increasing pain around the tube
  • warmth, redness or swelling around the tube site
  • foul-smelling drainage
  • vomiting
  • fever over 100.4 degrees F
  • drainage around the tube site
  • stitches come loose
  • tube breaks or comes out
  • change in drainage to more bloody
  • sudden increase in amount of drainage (greater than 30 ml)
  • sudden decrease in amount of drainage (greater than 30 ml)

Caring For Your Jackson Pratt Drainage Tube (PDF)

HH-II-235 1/19 Copyright 2019, Nationwide Children’s Hospital