What is a surgical drain?
A drain is a tube placed into an area to help drain fluid. Drains are connected to a drainage collection device such as a bulb (some refer to this as a grenade), an accordion collection system, or simply a bag. The collection devices collect fluid from the drainage tube by gravity drainage or by creating a “negative pressure” system. In the “negative pressure” system, the bulb or accordion actually “suck” out fluid through the drain.
Why is the drain needed?
A drain is needed to drain fluid that either does not belong or to prevent unwanted fluid from accumulating. Drains are temporary, but will need to remain in place until the fluid is no longer a problem.
How do I take care of the drain at home?
Learning what to expect from your drain and how to empty it are very important. Drain fluid appearance will depend on what the drain is draining. Fluid is typically clear, straw colored, yellow, or cranberry colored. Some specs of blood are not unusual, and fluctuations in color are normal.
The drain will be sutured in place in efforts to keep it from falling out or being accidentally pulled out with movement such as rolling over in bed at night. Your drain will be most comfortable if you keep it secured to your clothing so that it does not pull on your skin. A safety pin can be used to secure the drain to your clothing, but be sure not to place the pin through the drainage tube or collection device. Most collection devices have a place specifically designed for securing them.
May I shower?
- Ask us if you may shower with your drain(s). The procedure you had determines this.
- How do I empty the drain bulb?
- Wash your hands with soap and water prior to emptying your drain.
- Unpin the drain from your clothing
- Open the top of the drain and turn the bulb upside down over a measuring device. Gently squeeze out the contents. To prevent infection, do not let the stopper or top of the bottle touch the measuring cup or any other surface.
- Record the amount in cc or ml in the chart below. Remember if you have more than one drain to record each amount separately.
- Squeeze the middle of the bulb, and while keeping it squeezed, replace the drainage plug. It is important to keep it squeezed during this process, as this is what creates the suction for the drain.
- “Milk” or “strip” the drain tube each time you empty your bulb as described below.
- Pin the drain back to your clothing
- Discard the drainage fluid in the toilet.
- Empty the bulb anytime it becomes about half full or loses suction, but do this at least three times per day.
How do I “milk” or “strip” my drain?
- Wash your hands with soap and water prior to handling your drain.
- With one hand firmly hold the drain near at the insertion site (close to the skin); this will prevent the drain from being pulled out during the process.
- Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, pinch or squeeze the tubing.
- While squeezing, slide your thumb and index finger down the drain towards the collection bulb towards the bulb (away from the skin). Do not release the pinching on the drainage tube until you have “stripped” or “milked” the drain all the way to the bulb.
- Do this at least 4 times per day and every time you empty the drain.
When do I call the office?
- If you develop increased pain or a spreading redness at the drain site
- If drainage in the bulb looks like pus
- If you have active bleeding
- If you have a temperature of 100.5 °F or higher
- If the drain quits draining
- If the drain falls out
*This article is intended as a guideline only. This is not intended as medical advice. There are no guarantees written or implied from the information presented here. Only a consultation can provide an appropriate evaluation and discussion regarding any procedure. Refer to your physician for medical decision making and advice.