The Jackson-Pratt system has a soft plastic bulb with a stopper. A catheter is attached to it (Figure 1 below). The drainage end of the catheter is inserted near your incision. When the bulb is compressed with the stopper in place, a vacuum is created. This causes a constant gentle suction, which helps draw out fluid that collects under your incision. The bulb should be compressed at all times, except when you are emptying the drainage. How long you will have your Jackson-Pratt depends on your surgery and the amount of drainage you’re having. Drainage is very individual; some people drain a lot, some only a little. The Jackson-Pratt is usually removed when the drainage is 30 mL (30 cc) or less over 24 hours. Your doctor and nurse will know how much your Jackson-Pratt is draining because you will record this at home in the drainage log in this guide. It’s important to bring the log with you to your follow-up appointments.


  • Milking the tubing to help move clots
  • Emptying it twice a day and recording the amount of drainage on the Jackson-Pratt Drainage record if you have more than 1 drain, make sure to measure and record the drainage of each one separately. Do not add them together.
  • Caring for your insertion site, the area where the catheter enters your skin
  • Recognizing when there is a problem.

Figure 1: Jackson Pratt drain


These steps will help you move clots through the tubing and keep the drainage flowing. Do this before you empty and measure your drainage.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Dry them completely.
  • Look in the mirror at the tubing. This will help you see where your hands need to be.
  • Pinch the tubing close to where it goes into your skin between the thumb and forefinger of your hand.
  • With the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, pinch the tubing right below your other fingers. Keeping your fingers pinched, slide them down the tubing, pushing any clots down toward the drainage bulb. You may want to use alcohol swabs to help you slide your fingers down the tubing.
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary to push clots from the tubing into the bulb. If you are not able to move a clot into the bulb, call your doctor or nurse.
  • The fluid may leak around the insertion site if a clot is blocking the drainage flow. If there is fluid in the bulb and no leakage at the site, then the drain is working.


You will need to empty your Jackson-Pratt in the morning and in the evening.

Equipment needed

  • Measuring container given to you by your nurse
  • Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record included in this section


1. Prepare a clean area to work on and gather your equipment.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Dry them completely.

3. Unplug the stopper on top of your Jackson-Pratt. This will cause the bulb to expand. Do not touch the inside of the stopper or the inner area of the opening on the bulb.

4. Turn your Jackson-Pratt upside down, gently squeeze the bulb, and pour the drainage into the measuring container (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Emptying the bulb

5. Turn your Jackson-Pratt right side up.

6. Squeeze the bulb until your fingers feel the palm of your hand.

7. Continue to squeeze the bulb while replugging the stopper.

8. Check to see that the bulb stays fully compressed to ensure a constant gentle suction.

9. Pin the collar of your Jackson-Pratt securely to a piece of your clothing or feed it through the Velcro® straps attached at the bottom of your surgical bra, if you have one. Do not let the drain dangle. A fanny pack or belt bag may be helpful to hold the drain.

10. Check the amount and color of drainage in the measuring container.

11. Record this amount and the color of drainage on your Jackson-Pratt Drainage Record.

12. Flush the drainage down the toilet and rinse the measuring container with water.

13. At the end of each day, add up the total amount of drainage for the 24-hour period and record it in the last column of the drainage record.

14. If you have more than 1 drain, measure and record each one separately.


Once you have emptied the drainage, wash your hands again. Check the area around the insertion site. Look for tenderness, swelling, or pus from the insertion site. If you have any of these symptoms or a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher, you may have an infection. Call your doctor or nurse.

Sometimes, the drain causes redness the size of a dime at your insertion site. This is normal. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if a bandage should be placed over your insertion site.