Every surgery requires a unique type of recovery process. Many plastic surgery procedures, like tummy tucks and large breast augmentations, call for a drain after surgery to remove pus, blood, and other fluids from the incision site. If you are about to undergo a surgery that will result in a drain, it’s very important that you understand exactly how a drain functions and the best ways to handle it during your recovery period.
A surgical drain is a closed suction device that consists of a thin, flexible rubber tube and a soft, round squeeze bulb that looks like a clear, plastic hand grenade. The rubber tube is inserted into the incision site and leads into the bulb so that excess fluid can be suctions and drained out of the surgical site. Your doctor may also refer to the surgical drain as a Jackson-Pratt drain, JP drain, or bulb drain.
It might feel awkward to wear your drain, but most are designed to easily blend in with your clothes. Most squeeze bulbs come equipped with a plastic loop that can be pinned to your clothes. There are even special clothes available, like camisoles, belts, and shorts that have pockets and Velcro loops specifically for the drain’s bulb. Depending on your health insurance and your ability to get a prescription, your provider might even cover the cost of the clothes!
Assuming that your surgical site will produce fluids like your surgeon expects, you will eventually need to empty your drain. Since it’s important to measure the amount of fluids produced, you will need a measuring cup, pencil, and piece of paper to do this. Be sure to empty the drain before it is entirely full; this may need to occur once every few hours at the beginning of your recovery, then only once or a twice a day later on. Make sure your hands are clean, open the bulb cap, and gently pour the liquid into your measuring cup. At this point, it’s critical that you squeeze the bulb and hold it flat, then close the cap. This ensures that the suction remains that will allow the drain to continue doing its job. Record the measurement, date, and time before flushing the fluid down the toilet and washing your hands.
If your tube falls out, you have a temperature above 100.5, or your drain site becomes tender and swollen, call your surgeon immediately.