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Jackson-Pratt Drain Care

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

A Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain is used to remove fluids that build up in an area of your body after surgery. The JP drain is a bulb shaped device connected to a tube. One end of the tube is placed inside you during surgery. The other end comes out through a small cut in your skin. The bulb is connected to this end. You may have a stitch to hold the tube in place.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your JP drain breaks or comes out.
  • You have cloudy yellow or brown drainage from your JP drain site, or the drainage smells bad.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You drain less than 30 milliliters (2 tablespoons) in 24 hours. This may mean your drain can be removed.
  • You suddenly stop draining fluid or think your JP drain is blocked.
  • You have a fever higher than 101.5°F (38.6°C).
  • You have increased pain, redness, or swelling around the drain site.
  • You have questions about your JP drain care.

How a Jackson-Pratt drain works:

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 expands as it fills with fluid.

How to change the bandage around your Jackson-Pratt drain:

If you have a bandage, change it once a day. You may need to change your bandage more than once a day if it gets completely wet.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Loosen the tape and gently remove the old bandage. Throw the old bandage into a plastic trash bag.
  • Use soap and water or saline solution to clean your JP drain site. Dip a cotton swab or gauze pad in the solution and gently clean your skin.
  • Pat the area dry.
  • Place a new bandage on your JP drain site and secure it to your skin with surgical tape.
  • Wash your hands.

How to empty the Jackson-Pratt drain:

Empty the bulb when it is half full or every 8 to 12 hours.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Remove the plug from the bulb.
  • Pour the fluid into a measuring cup.
  • Clean the plug with an alcohol swab or a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Squeeze the bulb flat and put the plug back in. The bulb should stay flat until it starts to fill with fluid again.
  • Measure the amount of fluid you pour out. Write down how much fluid you empty from the JP drain and the date and time you collected it.
  • Flush the fluid down the toilet. Wash your hands.

Clear clogged tubing:

Use the following steps to clear your Jackson-Pratt tubing:

  • Hold the tubing between your thumb and first finger at the place closest to your skin. This hand will prevent the tube from being pulled out of your skin.
  • Use your other thumb and first finger to slide the clog down the tubing toward the bulb. You may have to repeat the sliding until the tubing is unclogged.

Jackson-Pratt drain removal:

The amount of fluid that you drain will decrease as your wound heals. The JP drain usually is removed when less than 30 milliliters (2 tablespoons) is collected in 24 hours. Ask your healthcare provider when and how your JP drain will be removed.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.