How to Care for Your Penrose Drain After You Leave the Hospital

How to Care for Your Penrose Drain After You Leave the Hospital

In case you don’t know what a Penrose drain is, the definition is quite easy to grasp by anyone. It refers to a soft, flat, and flexible tube that lets blood and other fluids move out of the area of your surgery in case you’ve been through such a medical procedure. While a part of the Penrose drain will be placed inside your body, one or even both ends of it will come out of the incision that has been made by the surgeons. The Penrose drain will keep fluid from collecting beneath your incision and triggering an infection.

We can learn the basics about the Penrose drain thanks to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center ( How long you need to keep your drain depends on how much fluid is draining and on the surgery you had.

When should you change your dressing

You should change your dressing two times per day, and each time it’s loose or wet. Each time you change your dressing, you should keep in mind the following information:

  • The amount of drainage present on the gauze.
  • The color of the drainage.
  • If there is any smell of the drainage.

Preliminary steps for changing your dressing

Before you remove your dressing, you need to get the following:

  • Soap
  • Clean and soft washcloth
  • A pair of nonsterile gloves
  • Paper tape
  • Two sterile 4×4 gauze

How to change your dressing

Changing your dressing should be done near a sink, as you’ll be in rapid need of water and soap to clean the area surrounding your incision.

  1. Clean your hands – It’s important to rub your hands together with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Then, you must rinse. The next step is to dry the hands using a disposable towel and use that same towel to turn off the faucet.
  2. Remove your dressing carefully. Pay attention to the color, amount, and any smell of the drainage.
  3. Observe the skin around where the drain is inserted. You should call your doctor if you have any swelling, tenderness, or pus, as those could indicate an infection.
  4. Clean your hands once again and in the same way you’ve done it at the first step. Then, put on a pair of nonsterile gloves.
  5. Clean the skin surrounding your Penrose drain as well as the skin beneath it by using the washcloth, soap, and water. Get rid of any soap that might have remained, and dry your skin thoroughly.
  6. Make a cut in one of the 4×4 gauzes if there’s not one already there. Use clean scissors for that, and begin from the center of one side and all the way to the middle of the gauze pad.
  7. Add the cut 4×4 gauze under the Penrose drain.
  8. Use the other 4×4 gauze to cover the Penrose drain.
  9. Use paper tape to secure the gauze.
  10. Remove your gloves and throw them in the garbage can.
  11. Clean and wash your hands once again.

Your nurse should give you the right instructions for how to go back to your usual activities and diet.

When to call your doctor

You must not hesitate to call your healthcare provider, such as your doctor or nurse, in case you’re dealing with either one of the following situations:

  • You are going through a fever of at least 100.4 °F (38 °C)
  • Your Penrose drain has come out
  • You are dealing with increased discomfort, swelling, redness, or tenderness near your incision or Penrose drain
  • The drainage from the Penrose drain is green, thick, or causes a bad odor
  • The skin surrounding your Penrose drain feels hot when touching it

You’ll obviously deal with less fluid as the incision heals, as we all know that the body has the property of regenerating its tissues after suffering wounds.



Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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