After Surgery

Surgical Drain Care

What is a surgical drain?

A drain is a thin rubber tube that is put through the skin into the wound, the abdomen, or the pelvis to drain bodily fluids. The drain has a soft squeeze bulb at the end of the plastic tubing [Figure 1]. The drain is inserted to help the area of the surgery heal properly. Dr. Maher Abbas selectively uses drains if he feels it is beneficial to you. Most surgical drains are removed within 1 to 2 weeks. On rare occasions, a drain may need to remain a longer period of time.

Figure 1 – A surgical drain with bulb suction

How should you care for the drain?

Most drains are simple to take care of. Keep the tubing attached to the bulb and secure the bulb to your clothes using the plastic clip or a safety pin [Figure 2]. You are encouraged to shower and allow soapy water to wash over the area. Have someone help you take a shower. Do not bend over to reach your knees or feet. Use a shower mat and use a shower chair to prevent from falling. The drain is held by a suture to your skin. While showering, secure the bulb to keep it from pulling on the skin or becoming dislodged. Avoid directly scrubbing the drain skin exit site. After taking a shower, pat your wound dry. You can place a clean gauze over the exit site if needed for comfort or to capture any secretions around the drain. If the skin exit site becomes red or irritated, you can use antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Fucidin. Do not soak in a bathtub, Jacuzzi, or pool. Avoid separating the bulb from tubing in attempt to pull out fluid strands or to flush out tubing. The system must remain together to keep the germs from entering the wound. Avoid wrapping the tubing in loops or kinking it. It must remain patent for continuous suction.

Figure 2 – Secure the bulb to your clothes with the plastic clip

How do you empty the drain?

The drain requires daily milking of the tubing and pouring out of the fluid contents. Milking or stripping the drain is performed by sliding two fingers along the tubing towards the bulb [Figure 3]. Hold tubing in place with your thumb and index finger from your left hand and pinch the tubing with your thumb and index finger from your right hand and slide the fluid towards the bulb. Begin at the place where the tube exits the body. This action pushes the fluid away from the body and into the bulb. It prevents the tube from clogging. When you empty the bulb, unplug the stopper [Figure 4] and empty the contents into a cup that is marked in milliliters [Figure 5]. Record the amount you collect into the cup. Pour the fluid contents into the toilet. It is best to milk and empty the drain three times a day or if the bulb fills up halfway then it is time to drain it. After emptying the fluid, squeeze the bulb and place the stopper into the bulb [Figure 6]. This action creates the suction needed to draw out the body fluid. The bulb will expand as fluid drains. Wash your hands before and after touching the drain and dry them with a clean towel. Bring the log of recorded daily output with you to your follow-up visit.

Figure 3 – Strip the drain tubing

Figure 4 – Unplug the stopper to empty the bulb

Figure 5 – Pour the bulb contents into a measuring cup

Figure 6 – Squeeze the bulb and put the stopper


Moderate exercise, like a 10 to 15-minute walk and leisure activities around the house, is a good way to regain your strength and help speed your recovery. Avoid household chores and lifting heavy items while the drain is in and until you are recovered.

Signs to watch for

Watch for the following signs and should any develop, notify Dr. Maher Abbas’ nurse or office:
• Bulb does not hold suction
• Drainage completely stops
• Drainage increases by more than 100 milliliters per day
• Fresh bloody drainage or change in the consistency of drainage from a light pink to a cloudy, murky drainage or stool
• Signs of infection – pus, swelling, increased redness bigger than a dime, uncontrolled pain, foul odor
• Temperature >38 ° Celsius, >100.4 ° Fahrenheit
• Tubing falls out of the body

Follow-up appointment

Usually a routine follow-up visit will be arranged for you with Dr. Maher Abbas within 5 to 10 days after discharge from the hospital. The drain is typically removed at the 1st or 2nd postoperative visit. Should you have a concern about your drain, you can call the office at any time.

Any questions? Contact Dr. Maher A. Abbas’ office nurse
















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Bring the log of recorded daily output with you to your follow-up visit.

Download printable version here