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What is a JP drain and how does it work?

A Jackson-Pratt drain, better known as a JP drain, is used to remove fluids that build up in an area of your body. The JP drain is a bulb-shaped device connected to a catheter (tube) that goes to a fluid collection in your body. The JP drain removes fluids by creating suction in the tube. The bulb is squeezed flat and connected to the tube that sticks out of your body. The bulb will expand as it fills with fluid.


Why do I have this type of drain?

You had a fluid collection in your body that required a drain to be placed. The fluid aspirated was likely very thick and needed to be suctioned out. By having a JP drain, it is able to produce suction to aspirate the fluid out. 

How do I manage and empty this drain?

In order to maintain continued suction from your drain, you’ll need to check the bulb periodically throughout the day and make sure that it is compressed (collapsed). If it is expanded then it is not producing any suction and may not be drawing off fluid properly. First, empty the bulb when it is half full or every 8 to 12 hours. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.

  2. Pull the plug on the side of the bulb out of the bulb.

  3. Pour the fluid inside the bulb into a measuring cup. Measure how much fluid you collected. Write the amount of your drainage and the date and time you collected it on a drainage chart. Flush the fluid down the toilet.

  4. Clean the plug with alcohol.  Then squeeze the bulb flat.  While the bulb is flat, put the plug back into the bulb.  

  5. The bulb should stay flat after it is plugged so that the vacuum suction can restart.  If you can’t squeeze the bulb flat and plug it at the same time, use a hard flat surface (such as a table) to help you press the bulb flat while you replug it.

  6. Wash your hands when you are done.

Make sure to record how much fluid is being collected daily!

What happens if there is no fluid being produced?

First make sure that the JP bulb is being compressed and maintaining it’s compressed state for longer than an hour. If it immediately fills up with air then there could be a malfunction in the drain or the bulb. No need to panic. Just contact your interventional radiologist’s office at (650)404-8445. In most cases, if there is no fluid being produced and the bulb is functioning properly, this is a good sign that the fluid collection may be resolved.

How do I move around with this drain?

There should be a small plastic strip or loop connected at the top of the bulb that can be used to clip with a safety pin to your pants, shirt or belt.

Can I shower with this drain?

Yes, though make sure to find a secure way to hold it or put it so it isn’t pulling on the tube. Make sure everything is dry after your shower.

What should I watch for?

If you develop severe pain, fevers >102 F, substantial bleeding or leakage at the drain site, you should seek immediate medical attention at your closest emergency room. If pain seems to be getting gradually worse, if you develop a low grade fever or chills, or if the drain becomes dislodged, you can call us at (650) 404-8445 Monday thru Friday between 8am-5pm, or reach the on-call Interventional Radiologist by calling (408) 739-6000.

The most important information is the daly drainage amount. You can chart each time you drain during a giving day into the drainage amount tab. Then you can sum and chart the Daily total in the Daily total tab.


Drainage Amount

Daily total


1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.1.                                     3. 2.                                     4.

*Tmax= Highest temperature of the day

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