Drain and Suture Line Care for Wounds

Your physician has discharged you with a drain (a system of tubing and a collection device) to remove fluid or air from your wound. This drain system will require care at home. The following instructions will help you and your caregiver correctly perform drain and suture (incision) line care for wounds.

Required supplies for drain and suture line care
You will need the following supplies to perform drain and suture line care:

These supplies can be purchased at a drug or grocery store.

Drain instructions
Drain care is a clean procedure. Supplies do not need to be sterile, but you must wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before performing drain care.

Various types of suction devices are used on wound drain systems. Prior to your discharge from the hospital, a nurse will specify which type of drain and suction device you have and will instruct you on proper drain care for your wound.

Types of drains

Jackson-Pratt
This oval-shaped suction system is about the size and shape of a large lemon. To re-establish suction, squeeze the drain in the palm of your hand with your fingers until the inside walls of the drain touch. While maintaining pressure, replace the plug. Slowly release your grip to re-establish suction.

The drain should remain concave or somewhat flat. It should not be fully inflated. If the drain is not flat, the suction is not working.

A Jackson-Pratt drain prior to emptying

Empty drainage fluid into a measuring cup and record the amount of fluid.

While maintaining pressure, replace the plug.  Slowly release your grip to re-establish suction.

Hemovac
A Hemovac is a round drain with springs inside that must be compressed to establish proper suction. To re-establish suction, squeeze the drain on both sides until the drain appears to be flat. While maintaining suction, replace the plug and release your grip.

A Hemovac drain prior to emptying.

Empty drainage fluid into a measuring cup and record the amount of fluid.

While maintaining pressure, replace the plug.  Slowly release your grip to re-establish suction.

Davol
This suction device has a rubber bulb on top of the drain that acts as pump to inflate the balloon in the drainage bottle. To re-establish suction, squeeze the rubber bulb with a continuous pumping motion until the balloon in the drainage bottle is completely inflated. Quickly replace the plug in the drain before the balloon deflates. The inflated balloon inside the drainage bottle creates the suction.

A Davol drain prior to emptying.

Empty draining fluid into a measuring cup and record the amount of fluid.

Squeeze the rubber bulb until the balloon in the drainage bottle is completely inflated.  Quickly replace the plug in the drain before the balloon deflates.

Correcting problems with the drain
If the drain tube becomes temporarily obstructed or is not draining properly, you may:

Call your physician if any of the following occur: 

Directions for suture line care
Suture (incision) line care also is a clean procedure. Supplies do not need to be sterile, but you must wash your hands thoroughly before performing the procedure.

Signs of infection at the suture line
The following are signs indicating that there may be an infection at or around the suture line. Notify your physician if you experience any of the following:

General signs and symptoms of infection

Copyright 1995-2005 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved

 

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ or www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. This document was last reviewed on: 2/10/2000

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