What Is Wound Drainage?

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  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2020
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Wound drainage systems are used to treat patients following surgery to help lower the risk of infection following the procedure. One system used in hospitals is to insert one end of a rubber tube into the wound and allowing it to drain outside the patient's body. A wound can also be drained by applying continuous suction to the area using a bulb which is squeezed to provide drainage. Burn patients can also be treated using a wound drainage system which creates negative pressure to help keep bacteria at bay and promote healing.

Tubes used for draining wounds are available in several styles. Depending on the type of wound, a flat or round tube may be used for wound drainage. Once the tubing has been put in place after surgery, it helps to keep the wound area free from blood and bacteria. The patient's process is monitored and the tube is removed once a constant drain from the wound is no longer needed. A wound drainage system where the fluids are collected into a plastic container or onto a sterile dressing may also be used.

Another type of wound drainage system involves using a bulb device to provide suction to the wound area. The bulb is squeezed to pull material out of the wound area. The bulb is also used as a container to collect bacteria and other substances as they drain from the wound.


The wound drainage system is inserted into the patient's body, if necessary, while he or she is under general anesthesia. The surgeon examines the patient regularly in the days following the surgery to determine how well the drainage system is working and how long it must remain in place. Nursing staff also examine the patient's drain and empty the collection container as necessary.

The person recovering from surgery should not find the presence of a wound drainage system painful. If the patient starts to experience pain from the drain area, his or her doctor or nurse should be informed. A patient may experience a stinging sensation when the drain is removed by the surgeon or nursing staff, and this is considered normal.

Wound drainage in burn patients is carefully monitored by nurses. Some discharge is normal in the first couple of days following the injury, but it should stop oozing after that point. If the burn site continues to have a discharge after that point, further investigation will be needed to determine if it has become infected.


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