A Jackson-Pratt drain (or JP drain) is rubber tubing that may be placed after surgery. It may also be used with infections or injury that can cause a build up of fluid.
Fluid that collects inside the body can increase the chance of infection or other complications. The JP drain allows fluids to move out of the body. The drain may be placed:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Leading up to the procedure:
General anesthesia —you will be asleep during the procedure
Once you are under anesthesia, your doctor will make an incision in your skin. The end of the drain tubing will be placed into the area where fluid has collected. The other end of the tubing will be connected to the squeeze bulb outside of your body. The doctor will remove the stopper from the bulb, squeeze it to create suction inside the drain system, and replace the stopper. This suction will pull the unwanted fluid out of your body. The doctor will then close the skin over the drain.
If you are having surgery, this JP drain will be inserted at the end of the operation.
If you are staying in the hospital, the nurses will care for and empty your drain.
15-20 minutes to place the JP drain
You may have mild to moderate pain where the JP drain is placed. Your doctor will recommend or prescribe medication to help with the pain.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The length of stay depends on the type of surgery you are having. You may be able to go home the same day if the surgery is minor.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Removal of a drain depends on how fast you heal from the surgery or injury. Your doctor may remove the drain when there is less than 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 milliliters) of fluid per day being drained. If you have more than one drain, they may not be removed at the same time.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Care of the JP drain. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center website. Available at:
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Accessed April 3, 2018.
How to care for the Jackson-Pratt drain. Clinical Center National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/jp.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2018.
Hughes S, Ozgur B, German M, Taylor WR.. Prolonged Jackson-Pratt drainage in the management of lumbar cerebrospinal fluid leaks. Surg Neurol. 2006;65(4):410-414.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 5/7/2014