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Penrose Drain

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about a Penrose drain?

A Penrose drain is also called a straight drain. The drain is a soft, flexible latex tube. The drain helps prevent infection by allowing blood and fluids to move away from your surgery site. Part of the drain will be inside of your body. One or both ends of the drain will come out of an incision. There may be a safety pin at the end of the drain to keep the drain from going back into your body. The drain and surgery area will be covered with a dressing.

Penrose Drain

How long will my drain stay in place?

The amount of time your drain stays in place depends on:

  • The type of surgery you had
  • How much fluid is draining from your incision
  • The reason for the drain
  • The size of your incision

How will I care for my drain at home?

Change your dressing at least 2 times every day. Change your dressing at the same times each day. Also, change your dressing if it gets wet or is loose.

  • Gather supplies. You will need:
    • Gauze dressings
    • Soap and water
    • A clean towel and washcloth
    • Nonsterile gloves
    • Tape
    • A pair of scissors if the gauze does not already have a cut in it
  • Wash your hands. Use soap and running water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. You can also use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Remove the dressing. Be careful to not pull on the drain. Write down how much drainage is on the dressing, what color it is, and how it smells. Also check the area for signs of infection such as pus, redness, and swelling.
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based gel again. Put on the gloves.
  • Wash your surgery area. Use the washcloth, soap, and water to gently clean around and under the drain. Use the towel to gently pat the area dry.
  • Put on clean dressing. Place a gauze under the drain. The part of the drain with the pin should go through the cut in the gauze. The drain should lie flat on the gauze. If there is no cut in the gauze, use clean scissors to cut the gauze. Be careful not to cut the drain. Start in the middle of one side and cut to the middle of the gauze. Cover the drain with another gauze and tape it in place.
  • Take off your gloves, throw them away, and wash your hands.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You develop a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher.
  • Your drain comes out.
  • The skin around your drain is red, swollen, or hot to the touch.
  • You have new or increased pain at your drain or incision site.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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