Surgical Drains: Penrose and Jackson-Pratt

Wound Drainage

  • Drain insertion into a wound is standard if a large amount of drainage is expected
  • Drains prevent fluid build up in the tissues which would slow healing and increase infection risk.
  • Drains may be sutured in place to maintain placement and integrity
  • Caution used upon changing wound dressings surrounding a drain site

The Penrose drain

 A soft rubber tube placed in a wound area, to prevent the build up of fluid.



  • This is the most commonly used drain
  • Made of flexible, soft rubber and causes little tissue reaction.
  • Acts by drawing any pus of fluid along its surfaces through the incision or through a stab wound adjacent to the main incision.
  • It has a large safety-pin outside the wound to maintain its position
  • To Facilitate drainage and healing of tissues from the inside to the outside, the tube is often pulled out and shortened 1-2 inches each day until it falls out.
  • The safety-pin should be placed in its new position prior to cutting the drain
  • Advance the drain with dressing forceps or hemostat, use surgical scissors to cut excess drain.
  • Note drainage amount and colour appearing in collection apparatus

The Jackson-Pratt, JP drain, or Bulb drain (Hemovac)


  • Consists of a flexible plastic bulb that connects to an internal plastic drainage tube
  • Device used to pull excess fluid from the body by constant suction.
  • Removing the plug and squeezing the bulb removes air
  • This is usually accomplished by folding the drain in half while it is uncapped, then while folded, recapping the drain.


Perry, A, G, Potter, P, A, Ross-Kerr, J, C and Wood, M, J. 2006. Canadian fundamentals of nursing. 3rded. Toronto: Elselvier


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