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.
Reasons for Procedure
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:
- After surgery if large amounts of drainage are expected
- To drain fluids from an abscess or other infected areas
- To drain fluids from injury associated with fluid build up
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Leading up to the procedure:
If you have been injured, your doctor may order imaging tests to see the fluid that has collected. Images may be taken with:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Do not eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before surgery.
- Arrange for a ride home from the hospital.
Description of 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.
Immediately After Procedure
If you are staying in the hospital, the nurses will care for and empty your drain.
How Long Will It Take?
15-20 minutes to place the JP drain
How Much Will It Hurt?
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.
Average Hospital Stay
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:
how to empty and care for the drain
- Ask your doctor if you can walk around with the JP drain.
- Avoid bumping the drain.
- Sleep on the side opposite of the drain. This will help you to avoid blocking the tubing or pulling it out of the suction bulb.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- Ask your doctor what problems to watch for and when you should return for a follow-up appointment.
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
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- You are unsure of how to care for your drain
- Drainage is greenish in color or has a bad odor
- Significant bleeding from the drain
- Pain at the incision
- Other signs of infection, including fever or chills
- End of the tube comes out of the incision
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Care of the JP drain. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/catheters/Pages/jp-drain-care.aspx. 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