How to Care for Drains After Surgery

A surgical drain is a tube used to remove pus, blood or other fluids from a wound, reducing the risk of infection. Surgical drains are typically inserted after a tummy tuck, or procedure where excessive skin has been removed, resulting in a buildup of excess fluids in the body. The most common type of surgical drain carries the fluid into a collection bulb that you empty. If you will be having plastic surgery involving the usage of drains, you may feel daunted by them and wonder how to properly care for them until they can be removed.

While surgical drains can be uncomfortable, if you are well informed on their purpose and how to take care of them, you will be able to handle and care for them better. Better handling means less chance of any unwanted complications or infections!

Below is a strep-by-step guide on how to care for drains after surgery:

1. Milk Tubes Periodically
The idea of “milking your tubes” might seem odd, but making sure to manually squeeze out the contents of your drains will ensure proper drainage of accumulated fluids. Doing so will reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your body or within your drains, bloating from excess fluids, and infection. When your drains collect less than 30ccs in over a 24-hour period, you’ll know it’s time to remove drains. This will be done at your scheduled post-op appointment.

2. Watch the Color of your Drainage
When you first get the drain, the fluid will be bloody. It will change color from red to pink to a light yellow or clear as the wound heals and the fluid starts to go away. Abnormal types of drainage should be reported to your surgeon. Abnormal types of drainage include the following:

– Drainage contains large amounts of blood
– Drainage contains pus and is yellow, grey, green, pink, or brown
– Drainage smells foul, even if it’s clear
– Blood is gushing from wound
– Wound becomes increasingly red, tender, and swollen

3. Empty Fluids
How often you empty the bulb depends on how much fluid is draining. A good rule of thumb to go by is to empty the bulb when it is half full. This will help assure that there is not buildup of fluids within your body and reduce the risk of any infection. Before emptying your drains, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to prevent transferring any germs to your wound site.

4. Clean Skin around Drain Sites
It’s also important to make sure you’re regularly cleaning the skin around where the drains enter your body. These areas are especially prone to infection because they are technically an open wound. Cleaning your drain sites thoroughly will ensure skin stays healthy and free of infection or scarring.

5. Avoid Bathing in a Tub
Avoid bathing in a tub when you have an incision that has not completely healed or a drain in place unless your surgeon says it is safe to do so. Take the time to inspect the area around the drain for signs of infection, just as you would a normal surgical incision.

6. Change the Dressing Around your Surgical Drain
Depending on the type of surgical drain you have, you may have a dressing or bandage around the drain. The dressing is often made of gauze pads held on with tape. Your doctor will tell you how often to change it. Before changing the dressing around your incision site, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, take off the dressing from around the drain, and clean the drain site and the skin around it with soap and water.
Use gauze or a cotton swab. When the site is dry, put on a new dressing.

7. Attend all Follow up Appointments
If you have surgical drains, follow-up appointments are especially important to keep. During your follow-up appointments, you doctor will assess where you are at in the healing process and determine whether or not you are ready to remove drains. It is important to keep these appointments and follow all doctor’s orders for a smooth and speedy recovery.

While drains can be uncomfortable, for some procedures, they are crucial to a smooth recovery and to giving you the results you want. Follow these instructions and you should have no problem caring for your drains after surgery!

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