Caring for Your Jackson Pratt Drain

The Jackson Pratt (JP) catheter is used to drain fluid from your surgical site. One end of the tube is placed in the area where body fluids may build up. The other end comes out of your body through a small incision (cut), and is connected to the squeeze bulb. The tubing is usually sutured to the skin where it leaves the body.


The bulb, when squeezed, applies constant suction and pulls excess fluid out of the body. The drain is removed when the excess fluid has stopped draining.

  • Keep the bulb compressed at all times to maintain the suction needed to drain the surgical site.
  • “Milking” the tubing of the JP catheter helps keep the tubing clear and should be done twice a day. Hold the top of the tube (near the insertion site) securely with one hand. Gently squeeze the tube between your thumb and index finger, moving your fingers along the tubing towards the suction bulb, to help dislodge any obstruction. Use liquid soap or Purell® hand sanitizer to help your fingers glide over the tubing.
  • Empty the bulb as needed, but at least every 8 hours. Wash your hands thoroughly before and afterwards. Pull out the stopper and empty the drainage into a toilet, or rinse it down the sink. If your doctor has asked you to keep track of the amount of drainage, empty it into a measuring cup and record it on your sheet. Squeeze the bulb again, replace the stopper, and slowly release your grip to re-establish suction. Over time, the drainage will decrease and turn from red (bloody) to yellow (serous).
  • Always keep the bulb pinned to your clothing to prevent the weight of the bulb from pulling on the stitches.
  • Check the area around the tube for signs of infection: redness, swelling, inflammation, pus drainage, or fever over 100.5°F.
  • Call your doctor/Center at Roswell if:
    • you have any of the signs of infection listed above
    • your drainage suddenly stops
    • there is a sudden change in the color of the drainage
    • drainage becomes bloody again, when it had started to be lighter/yellow
    • drainage becomes milky white
    • you are unable to re-establish suction in the drainage system

If it is after clinic hours, a holiday, or weekend, call the operator at (716) 845-2300 and ask them to page the doctor on call for your Center.