The following instructions will help you know how to care for your drain in the days following your procedure. Do not, however, hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns.

What is the purpose of a Jackson Pratt drain?

After surgery, there is continued oozing and shedding of cells and bodily fluids at the surgical site. The Jackson Pratt drain removes fluid and this removal of fluid speeds healing.

Jackson Pratt drain | Cleveland Clinic

How does the drain work?

Your drain will automatically suction fluid out when the bulb is compressed. The bulb has to be compressed very well and the drain tab has to be closed in order for the suction to work. When the bulb can maintain its compressed shape, it is a sign that suction is in effect.

How do you empty the drain?

Make sure your hands are thoroughly washed with soap and water before you empty the drain. The drain can be emptied by opening the tab. You will be given a measuring cup—empty the fluid into this. Record the amount of fluid and discard the fluid in the toilet. Please record the time and amount of fluid. After you empty, compress the bulb (as flat as you can) and replace the tab to re-establish the suction. The color of the drainage changes from red to a yellow over time. There may be red stringy material in the drainage. These are not blood clots—DO NOT WORRY! This material does, however, tend to block the tubing. You may need to "milk" or “strip” the tubing. To do this, use either alcohol wipes (wrap the wipe around the tubing) or put lotion on your fingertips (to facilitate a smoother glide on the tubing) and pinch and pull gently on the tubing (flattening the tube). This will move the stingy material down the tube and prevent clots from forming.

How often should the drain be emptied?

The drain should be emptied as often as possible so that the bulb can be compressed fully to maintain suction. In general, this is usually done every four to six hours the first few days until the amount decreases. The drain should remain in place until your doctor tells you it is okay to be removed. Sometimes, after the drain is removed, the fluid may re-accumulate and swell at the surgical site. This fluid is called seroma. If it should occur, this is not an emergency; however, call and inform your coordinator.

What are helpful tips that can help me with the drain?

There is a tab on the bulb part of the tubing that can be pinned to your bra, under your shirt, or slipped over a belt or piece of elastic.

Call the office if you have any questions.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2019.


  • National Institutes of Health, Clinic Center. How to Care for the Jackson-Pratt Drain. ( Accessed 3/26/2019.
  • Merck Manual Professional Version. Postoperative Care. ( Accessed 3/26/2019.

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