What is a Jackson-Pratt Drain?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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A Jackson-Pratt drain is a surgical drain which allows fluid to drain from the body after surgery. Drains are used to reduce the risk of fluid buildup at the surgical site, to monitor how much fluid is draining from the body, and to keep the surgical site cleaner. This type of drain is commonly used after major surgeries and is put in place during the surgery so that it will start working immediately.

A length of tubing is inserted into the surgical site so that it can collect fluid. This end of the drain is commonly perforated to allow fluid to flow into the tube as easily as possible. The end of the tubing which extends outside the body is capped with a bulb which slowly fills with fluid from the surgical site. Periodically the bulb is emptied and squeezed to push all of the air out so that it will create suction which draws fluid out of the tube.


The Jackson-Pratt drain is also known as a JP drain or simply a bulb drain. In the hospital, a caregiver such as a nurse usually supervises the drain. The area around the drain is periodically cleaned to reduce the risk of infection, and the bulb is regularly emptied. The bulb is usually emptied before it becomes half full so that the weight of the bulb does not drag on the drain and cause pain or pull it out. The contents are measured each time and noted in the patient's chart, and then discarded. If there is anything unusual about the fluid, such as clotting, a strange color, or a strong odor, this will be noted as well.

When a patient is sent home with a Jackson-Pratt drain, a home caregiver may provide care, or the patient may need to care for the drain independently. Taking care of a Jackson-Pratt drain is generally simple. The patient simply needs to wash the hands before uncapping the bulb, squeezing the contents out into a measuring device, flattening the bulb, and recapping. The amount of fluid collected can be logged, and then the fluid can be discarded and the hands can be washed again.

Once the wound is draining a minimal amount of fluid every day, the Jackson-Pratt drain can be removed. Bandages are used to protect the surgical site and to collect any fluid which still seeps, and the patient still needs to keep the site clean to avoid infection. Usually in the early stages of healing the surgical site needs to be kept dry during baths and showers.


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