Jackson-Pratt Drain
all information

Jackson-Pratt Drain

(JP Drain)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A Jackson-Pratt drain (“JP drain”) is made of a thin rubber tube inserted into a soft round squeeze bulb with a removable stopper. It is used to remove fluid that can collect inside your body after surgery, infection, or an injury. A JP drain is frequently used to drain an abscess in the abdomen. Conditions such as a ruptured appendix or diverticulitis can cause an abscess. It is not used in skin or superficial infections.

Abscesses from Diverticulitis

diverticulitis open abdomen

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Parts of the Body Involved

A JP drain may be placed anywhere in your body.

Reasons for Procedure

A JP drain allows excess fluid to be removed from the body. Fluid that collects inside the body after surgery or injury can increase the chance of infection or other complications. The drains are placed routinely after some kinds of surgery if large amounts of drainage are expected.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

Complications do not usually occur because of this procedure. The drain placement is done as part of a larger operation, so it carries the risk of the underlying surgical procedure

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • If your doctor thinks that fluid may have collected after you have been injured he may order a CT or MRI scan . This will show whether fluid has collected and how much is present.
  • Do not eat or drink anything for eight hours before your surgery.
  • If you will be going home from the hospital the same day as the procedure:
    • You will need to arrange for a ride home from the hospital.
    • Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions for caring for the drain at home. They will also tell you what problems to watch out for and when to return to the doctor’s office for a follow-up visit.

Description of the Procedure

Once you are under anesthesia your surgeon will make an incision in your skin. The end of the drain tubing will be placed into the area where fluid has collected. (If you are having surgery, the drain tubing will be placed at the end of your surgical procedure.) The other end of the tubing will be connected to the squeeze bulb.

The surgeon will remove the stopper from the bulb, squeeze it to create suction inside the drain system, and replace the stopper. This suction will pull the unwanted fluid out of your body. The skin is closed over the drain.


General anesthesia will be used for this surgery.

After Procedure

Your nurses will care for and empty your drain if you stay in the hospital after your surgery. Upon discharge, your nurses will teach you how to empty and care for the drain at home.

How Long Will It Take?

Surgery to place a drain may be brief (15-20 minutes). The overall surgery time including anesthesia will be longer.

Will It Hurt?

Your will not feel pain during your surgery because you will be under general anesthesia. After your surgery you may have mild to moderate pain at the place where your drain is placed. Your doctor will suggest over-the-counter or prescription pain medications for you.

Possible Complications

  • Excessive bleeding at the site of the incision
  • Infection

Average Hospital Stay

If your drain is placed as part of a larger surgery. Your time in the hospital will depend on recovery from that surgery.

You may be able to go home the same day if the surgery is minor.

Postoperative Care

  • Your doctor or nurses will teach you how to care for your drain at home.
  • Ask your doctor will tell you whether or not you can walk around with your drain. Avoid bumping the drain if you do so.
  • Sleep on the side opposite to the drain to keep from blocking the tubing or pulling it out of the suction bulb.


Removal of a drain depends on how fast you heal from their surgery or injury. Your doctor will probably want to remove the drain when there is less than 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 milliliters) of fluid per day being drained. If you have more than one drain, they may not be removed at the same time.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

If you are caring for your JP drain at home, be sure to contact your doctor if at any time:

  • You are unsure of how to do any of the homecare steps
  • The drainage is greenish in color or has a bad smell
  • There is significant bleeding from the drain
  • You have pain at the incision
  • You have a fever of 101º F or higher
  • The end of the tube comes out of the incision


Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

University of Michigan Department of Surgery


BC Surgical Society

False Creek Surgical Centre


Care of the JP drain. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center website. Available at: http://patienteducation.upmc.com/Pdf/JPDrain.pdf . Accessed March 6, 2008.

Caring for your Jackson Pratt drainage system. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website. Available at: http://www.mskcc.org/patient_education/shared/graphics/patienteducation/Patient_Education_Publications/Self-Care/CaringForYourJacksonPrattDrainageSystem.pdf . Accessed March 6, 2008.

Hughes S, Ozgur B, German M, Taylor W. Prolonged Jackson-Pratt drainage in the management of lumbar cerebrospinal fluid leaks. Surg Neurol . 2006;65:410-414.

Last reviewed April 2008 by Ronald Nath, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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