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Caring for a Drainage Tube

This is what you’ll need:

  • Disposable gloves

  • Measuring cup

  • Record sheet

  • Gauze or paper towel

  • Sterile cotton swabs or 4" x 4" gauze pads

  • Sterile saline or 0.5% hydrogen peroxide

A drainage tube removes fluid from around an incision. This helps prevent infection and promotes healing. You need to empty the bulb and clean the skin around the drain as often as your health care provider tells you to. Follow the steps below.

Emptying bulb

1. Empty the Bulb

  • Wash your hands. Put on disposable gloves.

  • Point the top of the bulb away from you and remove the stopper.

  • Turn the bulb upside down over a measuring cup. Squeeze the fluid into the cup. Make sure the bulb is totally empty.

  • Put the cup to one side. You can record the volume of liquid in the cup after you clean and reconnect the build in step 2.

Cleaning bulb

2. Clean and Reconnect the Bulb

  • Clean the top of the bulb with clean gauze or a paper towel, if needed.

  • Roll the bulb up tight to squeeze out all the air. Keep the bulb rolled, and put the stopper back on the top.

  • Record the amount of fluid in the cup. Then, empty the cup as directed.

Cleaning skin

3. Clean the Site

  • Remove your disposable gloves and wash your hands before cleaning the site.

  • Put on a neew pair of disposable gloves.

  • Wet a sterile cotton swab or 4" x 4" gauze pad with sterile saline. Or use 0.5% hydrogen peroxide.

  • Gently clean the skin around the drain. Always wipe away from the incision.

  • Apply an antibacterial ointment if directed.


When to Call Your Health Care Provider

Call your health care provider if you notice any of these changes:

  • The amount of fluid increases or decreases suddenly.

  • Large amount of blood in drainage.

  • The color, odor, or thickness of the fluid changes.

  • The tube falls out or the incision opens.

  • The skin around the drain is red, swollen, painful, or seeping pus.

  • You have a fever over 101.0°F (38.3°C) or chills.














If the Tube Isn't Draining

  • Uncurl any kinks in the tube.

  • With one hand, firmly hold the base of the tube between your thumb and index finger. Do not touch the incision.

  • Put the thumb and index finger of your other hand on the tube, next to the first hand. Pinch your fingers together. Then pull them along the tube toward the bag. This will help push any clogged fluid through the tube.

  • If the tube still does not drain, call your health care provider.





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