Caring for Your Penrose Drain

This information describes how to care for your Penrose drain after you leave the hospital.

Your nurse will review these instructions with you before you leave. He or she will also give you the supplies you will need.

About Your Penrose Drain

A Penrose drain is a soft, flat, flexible tube made of latex. Part of the drain will be inside your incision (surgical cut), and part of it will come out of your skin. A safety pin or a small tab is usually left at the end of the Penrose drain to prevent it from slipping into the wound (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Penrose drain

The Penrose drain acts like a straw to pull or drain blood and other fluids from your surgical site and release them outside of your body onto a dressing. This prevents fluids from collecting under your incision.

How long you will have a Penrose drain depends on your surgery and the amount of drainage coming from your incision. As you heal, the amount of fluid will decrease. When you have no fluid draining from your Penrose drain for 24 hours, contact your doctor to make an appointment to remove it.

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Changing Your Dressing

Change your dressing 2 times each day and anytime it becomes wet or loose. Each time you change your dressing, write down the following information about the drainage:

  • How much you see on the gauze. (Is it the size of a dime, a quarter, a lime, an orange?)
  • The color. (Is it bright red, dark red, pink, brown, yellow?)
  • Any odor. (Does it smell foul, sweet, musty?)

To change your dressing, gather the following supplies:

  • Wash cloth and soap
  • 2 Sterile 4X4 gauze
  • Paper tape
  • 1 pair of nonsterile gloves

1.  Clean your hands. If you’re washing your hands with soap and water, wet your hands, apply soap, rub them together thoroughly for 15 seconds, then rinse. Dry your hands with a disposable towel, and use that same towel to turn off the faucet. If you’re using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, be sure to cover all of your hands with it, rubbing them together until they’re dry.

2.  Carefully remove your dressing. Look at the color, amount, and notice any odor before you throw it away.

3.  Look at and feel your skin around where the drain is inserted. If you have any tenderness, swelling, or pus, call your doctor or nurse. These could be signs of an infection.

4. Clean your hands as decribed in step 1. Put on clean gloves.

5. Clean your skin around and under the Penrose drain using a soft wash cloth and soap and water. Be careful not to pull the drain out. Wipe away any remaining soap, and dry your skin thoroughly.

6. Place a sterile 4X4 gauze underneath the Penrose drain.

7. The Penrose drain with the safety pin in place should lie flat on top of the sterile 4X4 gauze.

8. Cover the Penrose drain by placing another sterile 4X4 gauze on top of it.

9. Secure the gauze with paper tape.

10. Remove your gloves and throw them away.

11. Clean and dry your hands as described in step 1.

You may resume your normal activities and diet as instructed by your nurse.

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Call Your Doctor if:

  • You have a temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
  • You have increased discomfort, tenderness, redness, or swelling near your Penrose drain or incision
  • The skin around your Penrose drain is hot to the touch
  • The drainage from your Penrose drain is thick, green, or has a foul odor
  • Your Penrose drain comes out
Drainage Log
Date   Time   Amount Color  Odor  
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