How To Care For Your JP Drains
Proper care of your drains is essential. You must regularly empty the bulbs so that they drain the fluid accumulating at the surgical site. The white portion (a on diagram below) of the drain is inside your body. The long, clear tube (b) exits your body and is attached to your skin by several stitches. Do not yank or pull the tube away from your body or you will tear the stitches, and simply put, it hurts! Suction created by the bulb (c) pulls the fluid from the surgical site into the bulb’s reservoir. In order to function properly, the bulb should be collapsed in the middle so it looks like a deflated ball. As fluid collects, the bulb will expand and become a sphere again. For the first 3-4 days, the fluid will be bloody or serosanguinous (blood plus serous fluid). This is normal. Over the next 5-7 days, output of fluid into the bulb will slow down and become straw-colored.
Ideally, you will milk your drains 2-4 times a day before emptying and measuring the
bulbs. Milking the drains is critical for proper functioning, but requires some practice. Secure the clear tube as it exits your body by holding it between your thumb and forefinger. Use an alcohol pad between your other thumb and forefinger to compress the clear tube, gently sliding the pad towards the bulb. You will not be able to slide your fingers away from your body in one stroke. Make several small strokes progressing towards the bulb. After you have milked the drain, the clear tube will remain compressed. As the fluid collects in the drains, the bulbs fill up and lose their suction power. Whenever the bulbs fill up half way or more, you must empty the bulb by opening the plug at the top and squeezing out the contents. Try to avoid touching the bulb plug. Be sure to measure and record the volume of fluid you empty in each drain.
Helpful tips: Record the fluid output on your drain log (download from here or below and print.) Bring this log to your post-op visit. Never wash out the drain or touch the plug unnecessarily. To recompress the drain after emptying it, keep the bulb plug open, squeeze the ball flat and put the plug back into the hole. The drains should hang from your clothing, a lanyard or from your bra, or rest in a pack below your chest. Gravity also helps pull out the fluid.
Most doctors do not want you to shower while drains are in place. Make sure to ask.