Care of the Jackson Pratt Drain

The sun shines brightly as Elisa makes her way to the hospital for another toxic duty shift. She arrives early at the clinical area to receive endorsement from the outgoing nurse on duty. After scanning the charts, reviewing doctors’ orders, medications and many others; they proceed to the wards for the bedside endorsement. As they approach the 3rd bed, she spots a bulb attached to the patient.

“Hmmn, a Jackson pratt drain,” she tells herself as they continue on their endorsement and she reviews the things to remember when caring for the drain.

Overview of the JP Drain

A Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain is a type of drain that is placed in an incision during surgery. The drain is made up of a hollow tube that is connected to an egg-shaped bulb. The hollow tube begins inside the incision and exits the body and attached to the end of the tube outside of the body is the collection bulb, which collects fluid from the incision.

This drain helps drain excess blood and fluid from under the skin and the incision site. At first, the fluid collected is bloody. Then, as the wound heals, the fluid changes to light pink, light yellow, or clear. The drain will stay in place until less than 30 cc of fluid can be collected in a 24-hour period.

Care of the JP Drain

Depending on how much fluid drains from the surgical site, you will need to empty the bulb every 8 to 12 hours. The bulb should be emptied when it is half full.

Emptying the drain:

  1. Perform hand washing with soap and water.
  2. Hold the drain securely.
  3. Remove the drainage plug from the emptying port.
  4. Carefully turn the bulb upside down over the measuring cup, and gently squeeze all of the drainage into the measuring cup.
  5. Squeeze the middle of the bulb.
  6. While still squeezing the bulb, replace the drainage plug, to keep the drain sucking.
  7. Measure how much fluid you removed from the bulb.
  8. Write down the amount and color of the fluid you removed from the bulb. If there is more than one drain, keep a separate record for each one.
  9. Empty the fluid into the toilet and flush.
  10. Rinse the measuring cup, and wash your hands with soap and water.

The drain must be emptied at least two times each day, in the morning and at bedtime.

Changing the dressing


  • A clean dressing (gauze pad)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cotton swabs or a piece of clean gauze
  • Scissors
  • Bandage tape
  • Paper towel
  1. Do hand washing with soap and water.
  2. Remove the dressing (gauze pad) from the skin.
  3. Wrap the old dressing in a paper towel and throw it away.
  4. Perform hand washing again.
  5. To clean around the drain site with hydrogen peroxide:
  • Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton swab or gauze pad. Do not dip the swab into the bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Gently clean around the area where the drain exits the skin.
  1. Check the skin around the drain for any signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, warmth, or a foul-smelling or pus-like discharge.
  2. Apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment (if necessary/ordered). The ointment should be squeezed onto a clean cotton swab, then applied to the skin around the drain.
  3. Apply a clean gauze dressing to the skin. On one side of the dressing, cut the dressing halfway across with clean scissors, to position the dressing around the drain.
  4. Tape all four sides of the dressing to the skin.
  5. Throw away any used materials, and wash your hands with soap and water.



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Lead Nurse Africa is a Pan-African nursing organization dedicated to public health promotion and professional development.

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