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Jackson-Pratt drain


Alternate Names

JP drain

Why You Need This

A Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain is used to remove fluids that build up in areas of your body after surgery or when you have an infection.

The JP drain is made up of 2 parts:

  • A thin rubber tube
  • A soft round squeeze bulb

The rubber tube is placed in the area of your body where fluids may build up. The other end comes out through a small incision (cut). A squeeze bulb is attached to this end.

Ask your doctor or nurse before you take a shower when you have this drain. You may be asked to take a sponge bath until the drain is removed.

Emptying Your Drain

Items you will need are:

  • A measuring cup
  • A pen and a piece of paper

You may need to empty your drain every 3 or 4 hours the first day after surgery. After that, 2 times a day should be enough. Empty the drain before it gets full:

  • Get your measuring cup ready.
  • Open the JP bulb cap. Do NOT touch the inside of the cap.
  • Empty the fluid into the measuring cup.
  • Squeeze the JP bulb, and hold it flat.
  • While the bulb is squeezed flat, close the cap.

Write down the amount of fluid you drained out and the date and time each time you empty your JP drain. Flush the fluid down the toilet and wash your hands. Call your doctor when you have less then 25 cc (a little less than two tablespoons) of drainage.

Changing Your Dressing

You will need to empty the drain when it becomes heavy. Items you will need are:

  • Two pairs of clean, unused medical gloves
  • Five or 6 cotton swabs
  • Gauze pads
  • Clean soapy water
  • Plastic trash bag
  • Surgical tape
  • Waterproof pad or bath towel

Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry your hands and put on clean gloves. Loosen the tape carefully and take off the old bandage. Throw the old bandage into the plastic trash bag. Look for any new redness, swelling, bad odor, or pus.

Use a cotton swab dipped in the soapy water to clean the skin around the drain. Do this 3 or 4 times, using a new swab each time. Take off the first pair of medical gloves and put them in the plastic trash bag. Put on the second pair of gloves.

Put a new bandage around the JP tube entry site. Use surgical tape to hold it down against your skin. Tape the tubing to the bandages. Attach the bulb to your clothing with a safety pin. It should not hang loosely. Throw all used supplies in the trash bag. Wash your hands.

Monitor the drain bulb for fluid build-up. If there is no drainage after several hours, call your doctor.

Clogged Drains

If there is no fluid draining into the bulb, there may be a clot in the tubing. If you notice a clot in the tubing:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Gently squeeze the tubing where the clot is, to loosen it.
  • Then squeeze down the length of the tube. Start where it comes out of your body and move toward the drainage bulb. This is called "stripping" the tube.
  • Do this several times.
When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • Stitches that hold the drain to your skin are coming loose or are missing.
  • The tube falls out.
  • Your temperature is higher than 100 °F, or 38.0 °C.
  • Your skin is very red where the tube comes out (a small amount of redness is normal).
  • There is drainage from the skin around the tube site.
  • There is more tenderness and swelling at the drain site.
  • Your drainage is cloudy or has a bad odor.
  • Drainage from the JP bulb increases for more than 2 days in a row.
  • The squeeze bulb will not stay collapsed.
Care Points
Surgical wound care

Altman GB, ed. Skin integrity and wound care. Delmar’s Fundamental and Advanced Nursing Skills. 2nd Ed. New York, NY: Thomson; 1999:chap 9.

Related Taxonomy

Review Date: 12/2/2008
Reviewed By: Robert J. Fitzgibbons, Jr., MD, FACS, Harry E. Stuckenhoff Professor of Surgery, Chief of General Surgery, and Associate Chairman, Department of Surgery, Creighton University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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