Drain Care after Breast Reconstruction

By: Courtney Floyd


How should you care for surgical drains after breast reconstruction surgery?

After breast reconstruction surgery, patients will have surgical drains placed to prevent blood and lymphatic fluid from building up under the skin, allowing for a quicker recovery.

The surgical drains look like small grenades (about the size of a fist) and have fluid measure markers around the outside. The drains are connected by a drainage tube that extends from an incision and sutured into place so it doesn’t accidentally slip out and leak.

When recovering from breast reconstruction, incision sites will be tender and sensitive. If the suture holding the drain in place is constantly tugged on, it could become quite painful. To reduce the risk of potential tugging to the drain, safety pins can be used to secure the drains to your clothing. Simply stick the safety pin through the drain’s tag or cap loop and attach the drain to your shirt or surgical bra. If pinning a drain to your clothing does not sound appealing, you may opt to attach them to a long, sturdy necklace. This is also an optimal choice while showering.

Before surgery, a PRMA nurse will provide a drainage log sheet. After surgery, it will be important to log the drain output at least twice daily. To accurately measure your drainage output, dispense the fluid into a measuring cup (provided to you by the nurse after surgery). This information will be helpful in monitoring recovery. Before the drains can be removed there must be less than 30cc’s of output a day for a 48 hour period.

To eliminate clogging of the drains, it is important to “strip” the drain a couple of times a day. Watch below as Nurse Amy demonstrates the proper way to strip drains and measure drainage output.

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