Best Ways to Care for Drains Post Surgery
The thought of having to care for your drains after surgery may be leaving you a bit squeamish. At David W. Allison, MD, we want to help you through all the details of your cosmetic surgery journey and provide you with all the resources possible ahead of surgery so that you are well prepared for your recovery. For more information about what to expect during recovery, click here WEBSITE.
A surgical drain is a thin, flexible tube held in place by a stitch at the opening of the incision that allows fluid to flow out from the body, preventing it from collecting at the surgical site. The most common type of surgical drain is a bulb that suctions the fluid through the drain where the bulb is emptied by the patient. Patients will need to empty the bulb twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. Your doctor will request that you measure and record the amount of fluid on a drain log. Everyone’s draining is different but following surgery, the drain will stay in place until less than 25 to 30 milliliters of fluid are collected in a 24-hour period. This process can take anywhere from 5 to 21 days depending on how your body heals. The fluid can change in color and consistency during recovery. It will look similar to blood immediately following surgery and will lighten to pink, light yellow or clear as your recovery progresses. Before you leave the hospital on surgery day, one of our caring nurses will show you how to empty the drains and measure the fluid so you have a step by step instruction of what to do.
The best way to care for your drains post-surgery is to follow the instructions provided by your surgeon. First, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before emptying the drains. Next, while the bulb is squeezed flat, squeeze the tubing with an cotton swab dipped in alcohol or a wet paper towel to help move the fluid through the tube to move clots and keep the drainage flowing. This should be done a few times over before emptying the drain. Then pull the plug out of the bulb to release the suction. Turn the bulb upside down and pour the fluid into a measuring cup. Keep the bulb flat after the plug is placed back into the bulb so that the suction can restart. Record the fluid measurement on the drain log. Flush the drainage down the toilet. Wash your hands.
Common drain problems include the drain bulb not holding suction, the drain site leaking fluid, blood clots in the tubing and redness and tenderness on the skin at the drain site. Solutions to these problems include compressing and flattening the bulb, “stripping” the tube through the fluid draining method detailed above and applying bacitracin ointment to the drain site once per day. Should these problems continue, or you experience any sudden swelling, bleeding, foul smelling draining, fever over 101 degrees, sudden pain that cannot be relieved with prescribed pain medication, persistent nausea or vomiting, or shortness of breath, contact your surgeon’s office immediately. For more information on cosmetic surgery procedures or questions about recovery, call our office at 703-754-8228.