Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Tell me about the surgical drains after breast reconstructive surgery.
Rachel McKenna, MSN, CRNP, Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, responds:
Jackson Pratt (JP) drains are placed under the skin during surgery to remove a collection of blood and other fluids. The drain looks like a narrow plastic tubing that connects to a drainage bulb (which is about the size of a closed fist). The JP drains expedite the drainage process and help decrease the chance of infection. You usually will go home with the drains. On an average, drains may stay up to 1 to 3 weeks. You will have at least one drain underneath the arms on the side of your mastectomy. If you use your own tissue you will have two drains in the abdominal area. The drains are fairly easy to take care of. You and your family members will be taught to care for them while you are in the hospital. Generally three times per day you will need to strip the tubing (clean it from the outside to make sure the tube stays open) and empty the fluid in the collection bulb. You will need to keep track of the 24 hour total of fluid coming out of each drain. A plastic surgery nurse will use these totals to determine when the drains need to be removed. The drains are easily removed in the office.