A Penrose drain, named for Dr. Charles Bingham Penrose, is a surgical drain which is left in place after a procedure to allow the site of the surgery to drain. Promoting drainage of blood, lymph, and other fluids helps reduce the risk of infection and keeps the patient more comfortable. Drains are often used for major surgeries and the patient may wear them home from the hospital and care for them at home during surgical recovery. When drains will be implanted, the patient is usually given some oral information and a fact sheet before the surgery to get familiar with the after care which will be required.
The Penrose drain consists of a flexible rubber tube which is left inside the site of the surgery. Typically a small tab or safety pin is left in place at the end of the drain on the outside so that it cannot slip back into the wound and become lost. The drain acts like a straw to pull fluids out of the wound and release them outside the body. As healing progresses, the drain may be slowly pulled out and clipped to promote healing in the deepest areas of the wound.
The area around the drain can get messy, as one might imagine given the purpose of the drain. There are several different ways to manage a Penrose drain. Some care providers fit a bladder or bag over the end to collect the wound exudate released by the drain. One useful feature of using a bag is that it allows people to track the amount of fluid produced by the wound every day. This information can be logged in the patient's chart.
A Penrose drain can also be surrounded by heavy bandages which absorb the leaking fluid. These bandages need to be changed regularly to prevent additional leakage and keep the skin as clean and dry as possible. Typically the condition of the bandages is noted on the patient's chart to give the patient's care team an idea of how well the wound is healing.
Patients who care for their drains at home are given special soaps to use for cleaning, along with adequate bandages. They are also usually asked to keep a log of their drain care. If signs of infection or other problems appear, a doctor can conduct an examination to determine the next best step.
Eventually, the Penrose drain can be removed. Drain removal usually occurs when it is clear that the wound no longer needs drainage, and can be done in a clinic or hospital.