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Drainage and Would Care After Breast Cancer Surgery

    • image showing what a JP Drain looks like and how it fits into the breast areaWhen you go home, you will have a dressing over your incision or wound where the surgery was done. If you had a mastectomy or reconstructive surgery, you may also have Jackson-Pratt drains (JP drains) for a few days or week after your surgery. Below are some general care guidelines. Your surgeon will give you more specific instructions on how to care for your dressing and drains. (**If these instructions differ from what your individual surgeon recommends, follow the directions from your surgeon's office.**)

      • Make sure that the dressing stays clean and dry. The dressing should not become saturated with blood or clear fluid. If it does, apply an extra dressing and contact your surgeon.

      • Your surgeon will let you know when you can take a shower.

      • Your surgeon will tell you when to remove or change the dressing. He or she may want you to leave on the original dressing until your first post-surgery visit. When your surgeon gives you the okay, it is often easiest to remove the dressing by wearing in it in the shower and using the warm water to loosen it. After a shower, pat the incision dry and apply another dry dressing to keep the wound clean.

      • Check the incision or wound to make sure it is healing well. The wound should be dry without a lot of redness or pink surrounding it. It is normal to have some swelling, tenderness and numbness in the area.

      • Symptoms to watch for include:
        • redness around the wound leakage of clear, bloody or white fluid
        • large amount of swelling

        • excessive warmth around the wound

        • fever

      • If any of these symptoms develop, contact your surgeon. You may have an infection at the wound that requires treatment.

      • The JP drain(s) need to be emptied regularly. Your nurse will show you how to empty them before you leave the hospital. It may be easier to have someone help you empty the drains. To empty the drain, pull the stopper out of the top of the drain and pour the liquid into the container your nurse sent home with you. After the drain is empty, squeeze the drain flat with one hand and push the stopper back into the top of the drain. The collapsed drain will create suction and help pull the excess fluid out of the wound. Record the date, time and amount of fluid collected for each drain. The amount of fluid coming out of each drain will decrease over time.

      • The JP drain(s) can develop infections so it is important to watch the area around the tube for redness, warmth, drainage (clear, bloody or white) and fever. Call your surgeon if you have any of these symptoms. Sometimes fluid may drain around the tube instead of into the drain. If this occurs, you can apply a small dressing around the tube. Change it frequently if it becomes wet. Call your surgeon if there is a lot of drainage around the tube.

      • Occasionally, the JP drain may fall out on its own. If this happens, call your surgeon and do not panic.

      • Sometimes after the JP drain is removed, or if you never had a JP drain, fluid may collect under the skin and in the tissues under your arm. This may feel like a fluid filled ball and look visibly swollen. If it is uncomfortable, you can contact your surgeon, and the fluid can be drained very easily. Always stay alert to signs of infection as well.

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      Postoperative stretches
      First aid for your arm following surgery
      Managing lymphedema