Care of the JP Drain

What is a JP Drain?

A Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain is a type of drain that is placed in an incision during surgery. The drain is made up of a hollow tube that is connected to an egg-shaped bulb. The hollow tube begins inside the incision and exits the body. Attached to the end of the tube outside of the body is the collection bulb. This bulb collects fluid from the incision (see diagram below).

What Does a JP Drain Do?

The JP drain helps drain excess blood and fluid from under the skin and the incision site. When you squeeze the egg-shaped bulb, fluid is sucked out. If the bulb is not squeezed tightly, the fluid will not drain.

Why is the JP Drain Needed?

The JP drain helps to keep fluid from collecting in the wound. It does this by removing the excess blood and fluid from under the skin and in the incision. The JP drain is temporary. It stays in place until the drainage has slowed down or stopped. As healing occurs, the fluid collected in the drain bulb should change color. It becomes less bloody, and the amount gradually decreases. Your doctor will decide when the drain should be removed. It will be removed in your doctor’s office.


How Do I Care for the JP Drain at Home?

Pin your JP drain to your clothing by using a safety pin through the plastic loop on the top of the bulb. If the drain is not attached to your clothing, it may pull out from under your skin. Also, a drain usually feels more comfortable when it is attached. To care for the JP drain at home, you will have to empty the drain and change the dressing.

Emptying the drain

You will need:

  • The measuring cup provided by the hospital or a measuring cup that is used only for the JP drain
  • A piece of paper and a pen
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Hold the drain securely.
  3. Remove the drainage plug from the emptying port.
  4. Carefully turn the bulb upside down over the measuring cup, and gently squeeze all of the drainage into the measuring cup.
  5. Squeeze the middle of the bulb.
  6. While still squeezing the bulb, replace the drainage plug. This step is important to keep the drain sucking.
  7. Measure how much fluid you removed from the bulb.
  8. Write down the amount and color of the fluid you removed from the bulb. If
    you have more than one drain, keep a separate record for each one. 9. Empty the fluid into the toilet and flush.
  9. Rinse the measuring cup, and wash your hands with soap and water.
  10. You should empty the drain at least two times each day, in the morning and at bedtime.

Changing the dressing

You will need:

  • A clean dressing (gauze pad)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cotton swabs or a piece of clean gauze
  • Scissors
  • Bandage tape
  • Paper towel

Note: make sure you have a clean work surface. You may want to place a clean towel on the work surface. You can set up the items needed for your dressing change on the towel.

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Remove the dressing (gauze pad) from your skin.
  3. Wrap the old dressing in a paper towel and throw it away.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water again.
  5. If your doctor has told you to clean around the drain site with hydrogen peroxide:
      • Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton swab or gauze pad. Do not dip the swab into the bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
      • Gently clean around the area where the drain exits the skin.
  6. Check the skin around the drain for any signs of infection. These include redness, tenderness, warmth, or a foul-smelling or pus-like discharge.
  7. Apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment only if your doctor has prescribed it. The ointment should be squeezed onto a clean cotton swab, then applied to the skin around the drain.
  8. Apply a clean gauze dressing to the skin. On one side of the dressing, cut the dressing halfway across. This cut will allow you to position the dressing around the drain. Make sure you are using clean scissors.
  9. Tape all four sides of the dressing to the skin.
  10. Throw away any used materials, and wash your hands with soap and water.

To prevent clots from blocking the drain, you will need to “strip” it. Stripping means that you use your fingers to squeeze along the length of the drain to help maintain the flow of drainage.

  1. Using one hand, firmly hold the tubing near the insertion site (close to your skin). This will prevent the drain from being pulled out while you are stripping it.
  2. Using your index finger and thumb of the other hand, squeeze the tubing below the
    first hand. You should squeeze it firmly enough so the tubing becomes flat.
  3. As you are squeezing, slide your index finger and thumb down the tube about 6 inches toward the bulb. Then, release the tubing held by the hand closest to your body. Repeat.
  4. Do not release the pressure you are creating in the tubing until you reach the bulb.
  5. Strip the drain each time you empty it.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased redness around the area where the drain goes into your skin
  • Increased pain
  • Swelling around the drain insertion site or in your incision
  • Drainage around the JP drain or on the dressing
  • Drainage in the JP bulb that looks or smells like pus
  • bleeding
  • Temperature above 100 F for more than four hours

Call your doctor if:

  • The bulb will not stay compressed or fills with air
  • The drain comes out

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |