Caring for Your ReliaVac Drain

This information explains how to care for your ReliaVac® drain.

About Your ReliaVac Drain

Figure 1: ReliaVac drain

You have a ReliaVac drain(s) to drain the fluid that collects under your incision (surgical cut) after your surgery. The amount of drainage depends on the person; some people drain a lot, some only a little. You may have more than 1 drain in place.

The length of time that you will have your drain(s) depends on your surgery and the amount of fluid that is draining. Your ReliaVac drain will be removed when the amount of fluid that is draining is less than 30 mL (1 ounce) in 24 hours. If you have more than 1 drain, the total amount for all drains must be less than 30 mL in 24 hours.

To keep track of how much drainage you’re having, you will record the amount in a drainage log. It’s important to bring the log with you to your follow-up appointments.

Back to top

Parts of Your Drain

The ReliaVac drain is a clear plastic container with a balloon inside (see Figure 1). It is attached to a tube with a Y-shaped connector at the end. A catheter (thin tube) was inserted near your incisions and is attached to the Y-shaped connector.

When the balloon inside the drain is inflated, it creates a constant, gentle suction. This helps to draw out the fluid that collects under your incision. The balloon should be inflated at all times except when you empty and measure your drainage, or if you have been told otherwise by your doctor or nurse.

Back to top

Caring for Your ReliaVac Drain at Home

Your nurse will work with you until you are able to care for your drainage system on your own. They will watch you the first time you empty the drainage to make sure you are doing it correctly. Even after you start to care for it yourself, we are always here to help. If you have any problems with your drain, call your doctor or nurse.

To care for your ReliaVac at home, you will need to:

  • Milk the tubing. This will help remove clots and make sure that the fluid flows correctly.
  • Empty the container at least twice a day. You must record the amount of drainage in your drainage log.
  • Add your morning and evening drainage. You must record the total amount for every 24-hour period. Remember to call your doctor or nurse to tell them the amount you collected in a 24 hour period.
  • Care for your drain insertion site. This is the area where the catheter enters your skin.
  • Recognize when there is a problem and call your doctor or nurse.

Milking the tubing

These steps will help you move clots through the tubing and promote the flow of your drainage. Milk the tubing before you empty and measure your drainage. You will need to do it more often if the drainage flow is slow or if it stops suddenly.

  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. Look at the tubing while standing in front of a mirror. This will help you see where your hands need to be.
  3. Pick a point close to the drain insertion site and pinch and hold the tubing with your thumb and forefinger of one hand. This will help prevent tugging at the insertion site.
  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 as far as they will reach, pushing any clots towards the collection container. You may use alcohol swabs given to you by your nurse to help you slide your fingers down the tubing.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed to remove all clots from your tubing. Do this until you see fluid move through the tubing into the collection container. If you are unable to move a clot into the collection container and your drain has suddenly stopped draining, call your doctor.

Emptying your ReliaVac and recording the drainage

Figure 2: Emptying the ReliaVac drain

You must empty your container twice a day. Empty it in the morning and in the evening. You may need to empty it more often if you have a large amount of drainage output.

To empty your container, follow these steps:

  1. Gather your supplies
    • Measuring container given to you by your nurse
    • Drainage log
    • Pen or pencil
  2. 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.
  3. Unplug the stopper on top of your ReliaVac (see Figure 1). This will cause the balloon inside the container to deflate. Do not touch the inside of the stopper or the inner area of the drainage spout.
  4. Pour the contents of the container into the measuring container (see Figure 2).
  5. Turn your ReliaVac right side up.
  6. Pump the bulb at the top of the drain until the balloon completely fills the container.
  7. Continue to squeeze the bulb while you plug the stopper. After plugging the stopper, you will hear a hissing sound. This is normal and will stop after a few seconds.
  8. Check to see that the balloon stays fully inflated. This will assure a constant gentle suction.
  9. Pin the collar of your drain to your clothing. Do not let it dangle. A fanny pack or belt bag may be helpful to hold the drain.
  10. Check the amount of your drainage in the measuring cup. Record this amount in your drainage log.
  11. Empty your drainage in the toilet and rinse the measuring cup with water.
  12. If you have more than 1 drain, measure and record each one separately.
  13. At the end of the each day, add the total amount of your drainage for the 24 hour period. Record this amount in the “Total” column.
Back to top

About Your Insertion Site

Once you have emptied your drainage, wash your hands again. Check the area around the insertion site. This is the area where the catheter enters your skin. Your insertion site may be covered with a dressing or bandage to protect it from getting infected. Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions about dressings, if needed.

It is normal for the drain to cause some redness at your insertion or suture (stitches) site; however, you must call your doctor immediately if you have any signs of infection. Some signs of infection include:

  • Increased tenderness or pain around your insertion site
  • Swelling, heat, or pus coming from the insertion site
  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher

Problems You May Encounter With Your ReliaVac Drain

Problem

  • The balloon inside your ReliaVac is deflated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Reason

  • The bulb was not fully inflated.
  • The stopper is not closed securely.
  • The tubing is separated from the Y-connector.
  • Air is leaking from the drain site, causing the drain to lose suction.
  • The balloon may be torn.

 

What to do

  1. Check to make sure the tubing is securely attached to the Y-connector.
  2. Inflate the balloon using steps 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 in the section “Emptying your ReliaVac and recording the drainage.
  3. If the balloon is still deflated, call your doctor or nurse.

Problem

  • The dressing on your insertion site is wet because of leakage from the tubing.
  • There is no fluid in your collection container.         
  • You see a sudden decrease in the amount of fluid draining.

Reason

  • Sometimes clots build up in the tubing. They may look like strings. These can block the flow of drainage. Your ReliaVac can often work well in spite of this.

 

What to do

  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. Use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze and release the Y-connector twice. While you are doing this, watch to see if the fluid in the tubing moves. If the fluid moves, your drain is working. If the fluid does not move, call your doctor or nurse.
  3. Change the dressing on your insertion site as needed. The goal is to keep your dressing clean and dry.

Problem

  • Increased redness greater than the size of a dime around your insertion site.
  • Swelling, heat, or pus around the insertion site.
  • New increased tenderness or pain around your insertion site.
  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher.

Reason

  • These are signs and symptoms of a possible infection.

 

What to do

  • Take your temperature. If it is 101° F (38.3° C) or higher, record it and the time you took it.
  • Call your doctor or nurse to report these changes. They will give you further instructions.
  • Change the dressing on your insertion site as needed. The goal is to keep your dressing clean and dry.

Problem

  • The ReliaVac tubing (drain) falls out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Reason

  • This may occur if there is tension on the tubing. This is rare because the tubing is held in place with sutures.

 

What to do

  • You may have some drainage from the place where the drain used to be. It looks like a small pea-size hole in your skin. Apply a new dressing over your insertion site and call your doctor.
 

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if:

  • Your ReliaVac drainage becomes bright red in color.
  • You notice a sudden increase in the amount of your drainage.
  • You have a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher.
  • Your insertion site has increased:
    • Redness
    • Tenderness
    • Swelling
    • Pus

Call your doctor or nurse during business hours if:

  • The amount of drainage goes up or down by 100 mL over 24 hours.
  • Your tubing accidentally falls out.
  • You are unable to inflate the balloon.
  • You are unable to move a clot from the tubing into the container. If this happens on the weekend or a holiday, you may call on the next business day.

Business hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. If you have an emergency after 5:00 pm, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the doctor on call.

 
Back to top

Drainage Log

ReliaVac® Drainage Log RV# _________

Date

Morning

Evening

Total

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ReliaVac® Drainage Log RV# _________

Date

Morning

Evening

Total

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to top