Sometimes in weight loss surgery we make use of Jackson-Pratt drains, or “JP” for short. Usually these drains are used in stapling procedures such as a gastric sleeve or bypass, and very commonly in revisional weight loss procedures. A JP drain is a long, soft silicone tubing with holes or grooves in the end of it, connected to a suction bulb that is easily empied by the patient.
The purpose of the JP is for the tubing to lie next to the staple line, so in the unlikely event of a staple line leak, any gastric contents that leak out would be collected by the drain rather than forming an abscess.
When JP drains are utilized, they are usually left in for 7-14 days and are removed in the office. There is typically suture in the skin right next to where the drain exits that secures the drain in place.
Typically there is also a “split sponge” around where the tubing exits, to collect any fluid that might leak around the drain. This leakage is common, and not to be concerned about unless it is excessive. If your split sponge becomes soaked or comes loose you can change it as needed:
- You will need some 4×4 gauze and some paper tape.
- Your hands don’t need to be sterile, just freshly washed.
- Remove the old tape and dressing and wipe the area clean with a warm moist washcloth.
- Use a pair of scissors to make a slit in the 4×4 on one side down to the mid point of the gauze.
- Place the gauze on the skin and center the sponge on the tubing using the split you made.
- Apply some paper tape to hold the gauze in place.
You JP should be emptied three times a day and the volume and color recorded on the JP Drain Output Log sheet. If you don’t have a printer you can just write the info on a sheet of paper. Emptying the drain is easy:
- Make sure your hands are freshly washed.
- Stand by a sink, preferably in your bathroom.
- Pop the hinged plug off on the top of the drain and let it expand.
- There are numbers on the drain bulb – these are cc’s – note how many cc’s of fluid are in the drain and what the color of the fluid is.
- The fluid should start out looking kind of like cherry juice or strawberry lemonade. It should transition with time to more a more regular lemonade color. If it is any other color, you need to talk to your surgical team.
- Record the information on the JP Drain Output Log.
- Empty the fluid out into the sink by turning the bulb upside down and squeezing it.
- Once it is empty, keep it squeezed, return it to the upright position, and re-insert the hinged plug while it is squeezed down.
This needs to be done when you first wake up in the morning, right before you go to bed, and about halfway in between. It also needs to be done any time the bulb is completely full.
Below is a good video that shows how to take care of a JP drain. This is from a plastic surgereon, but it nicely illustrates everything discussed in this article.