Caring for Your Jackson-Pratt Drainage System

This information describes how to care for your Jackson-Pratt® drainage system after you leave the hospital. Your nurse will also review this with you.

The Jackson-Pratt is easy to use and you will be able to care for it yourself. Below is a video demonstration of how to care for your Jackson-Pratt drainage system.

The Jackson-Pratt system has a soft plastic bulb with a stopper. A catheter is attached to it (see Figure 1). The drainage end of the catheter is inserted near your incision. When the bulb is compressed with the stopper in place, a vacuum is created. This causes a constant gentle suction, which helps draw out fluid that collects under your incision. The bulb should be compressed at all times, except when you are emptying the drainage.

How long you will have your Jackson-Pratt depends on your surgery and the amount of drainage you’re having. Drainage is very individual; some people drain a lot, some only a little. The Jackson-Pratt is usually removed when the drainage is 30 mL (30 cc) or less over 24 hours. Your doctor and nurse will know how much your Jackson-Pratt is draining because you will record this at home in the drainage log in this guide. It’s important to bring the log with you to your follow-up appointments.


Caring for Your Jackson-Pratt at Home

Caring for your Jackson-Pratt at home will involve the following:

  • Figure 1: Jackson Pratt drainFigure 1: Jackson Pratt drain
    Milking the tubing to help move clots
  • Emptying it twice a day and recording the amount of drainage on the Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record
    • If you have more than 1 drain, make sure to measure and record the drainage of each one separately. Do not add them together.
  • Caring for your insertion site, the area where the catheter enters your skin
  • Recognizing when there is a problem
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Milking the Tubing

These steps will help you move clots through the tubing and keep the drainage flowing. Do this before you empty and measure your drainage.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Dry them completely.
  2. Look in the mirror at the tubing. This will help you see where your hands need to be.
  3. Pinch the tubing close to where it goes into your skin between the thumb and forefinger of your hand.
  4. With the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, pinch the tubing right below your other fingers. Keeping your fingers pinched, slide them down the tubing, pushing any clots down toward the drainage bulb. You may want to use alcohol swabs to help you slide your fingers down the tubing.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary to push clots from the tubing into the bulb. If you are not able to move a clot into the bulb, call your doctor or nurse.
  6. The fluid may leak around the insertion site if a clot is blocking the drainage flow. If there is fluid in the bulb and no leakage at the site, then the drain is working.


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How to Empty Your Jackson-Pratt and Record the Drainage

You will need to empty your Jackson-Pratt in the morning and in the evening.

Equipment needed

  • Measuring container given to you by your nurse
  • Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record included in this section


  1. Prepare a clean area to work on and gather your equipment.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Dry them completely.
  3. Unplug the stopper on top of your Jackson-Pratt. This will cause the bulb to expand. Do not touch the inside of the stopper or the inner area of the opening on the bulb.
  4. Turn your Jackson-Pratt upside down, gently squeeze the bulb, and pour the drainage into the measuring container (see Figure 2).
  5. Figure 2: Emptying the bulbFigure 2: Emptying the bulb
    Turn your Jackson-Pratt right side up.
  6. Squeeze the bulb until your fingers feel the palm of your hand.
  7. Continue to squeeze the bulb while replugging the stopper.
  8. Check to see that the bulb stays fully compressed to ensure a constant gentle suction.
  9. Pin the collar of your Jackson-Pratt securely to a piece of your clothing or feed it through the Velcro® straps attached at the bottom of your surgical bra, if you have one. Do not let the drain dangle. A fanny pack or belt bag may be helpful to hold the drain.
  10. Check the amount and color of drainage in the measuring container.
  11. Record this amount and the color of drainage on your Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record.
  12. Flush the drainage down the toilet and rinse the measuring container with water.
  13. At the end of each day, add up the total amount of drainage for the 24-hour period and record it in the last column of the drainage record.
  14. If you have more than 1 drain, measure and record each one separately.
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Caring for the Insertion Site

Once you have emptied the drainage, wash your hands again. Check the area around the insertion site. Look for tenderness, swelling, or pus from the insertion site. If you have any of these symptoms or a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher, you may have an infection. Call your doctor or nurse.

Sometimes, the drain causes redness the size of a dime at your insertion site. This is normal. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if a bandage should be placed over your insertion site.

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Problems You May Encounter With Your Jackson-Pratt


The bulb is not compressed.


  • The bulb was not compressed all the way because it wasn’t squeezed tightly enough.
  • The stopper is not closed securely.
  • The suction catheter has been dislodged and is leaking.

What to Do

  • Compress the bulb using steps 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8 outlined in “How to Empty Your Jackson Pratt and Record the Drainage.”
  • If the bulb remains expanded after following the steps above, notify your doctor or nurse during business hours.


There is:

  • No drainage
  • A sudden decrease in the amount of drainage
  • Drainage on or outside the catheter bandage


Sometimes, string-like clots clump together in the catheter. This can block the flow of drainage.

What to Do

  • Milk the tubing as described above.
  • If there is no increase in drainage flow, notify your doctor or nurse during business hours. If it occurs at night, call them the next day.


The catheter falls out of your insertion site.


This can happen if the catheter is pulled. It rarely happens, because the catheter is held in place with sutures (stitches).

What to Do

If this happens, place a new bandage over the site and call your doctor or nurse during business hours.


You have redness greater than the size of a dime, swelling, heat, or pus around your insertion site.


These may be signs of an infection.

What to Do

  • Take your temperature. Call your doctor or nurse and describe the signs of infection around your insertion site. Let them know if your temperature is 101° F (38.3° C) or higher.
  • Keep your insertion site clean and dry by washing it with soap and water and then gently patting it dry.

Once you know how to care for your Jackson-Pratt, you will do it on your own. Your nurse will supervise you the first time you empty the drainage to make sure you are doing it correctly. Even after you have begun to care for it yourself, you can always ask for help. If you have any problems after discharge, call your doctor or nurse.


Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have:

  • Bright red drainage
  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Increased redness, tenderness, swelling, or pus at your insertion site

Call your doctor or nurse during business hours if:

  • The amount of drainage suddenly drops or has increased 100 mL (100 cc) over the past 24 hours.
  • The catheter falls out.
  • You cannot compress the bulb.
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Instructions After Your Drain Is Removed

After your drain is removed, please follow the instructions below. These guidelines will help you:

  • Keep your insertion site and the area around it clean and dry
  • Prevent infection and promote healing of the skin after the drain is removed


  1. Remove the bandage after 24 hours.
  2. You may shower (no tub bath) after you have removed the dressing.
  3. Wash the site gently with soap and rinse the area with warm, running water.
  4. Pat the area dry.
  5. Inspect the site (using a mirror if necessary). You can expect the following:
    • Slight redness
    • Swelling
    • Tenderness
    • A small amount of clear or slightly bloody drainage on the gauze pad
  6. If you were instructed to see your doctor or nurse for a follow-up visit, use this space to write in when. _____________

Call your doctor if you have any questions, or if you have:

  • Increased redness
  • Increased pressure or swelling
  • Skin that is hot to the touch
  • A temperature higher than 101° F (38.3° C)

Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record  JP# _________

Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record  JP# _________

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If you have any questions or concerns, talk with a member of your healthcare team. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at ____________________. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call____________________. If there’s no number listed, or you’re not sure, call 212-639-2000.
Caring for Your Jackson-Pratt Drainage System
©2016 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Generated on February 11, 2016