Jackson Pratt Drains + SL

Tonight’s post is a clinical one…with a SL (silver lining), of course.

One of the post-surgical components of a double mastectomy & reconstruction is a Jackson-Pratt drain, a/k/a a JP Drain.

A Jackson-Pratt drain (or JP drain) is a surgical drainage device that removes excess fluid that can collect inside your body after surgery.

When fluid builds up in a post-surgical site, the area may not heal as fast as it should, or (even worse) cause an infection. Too much fluid in a post-surgical area may also cause pain, swelling and infection. Using a JP drain after surgery usually helps you heal faster and helps clear away pus. Yes, pus. I never said that this would be pretty.

A JP Drain looks essentially like a plastic hand grenade. Seriously.  …and I woke up with 4 of them. Yes, FOUR. They are quite uncomfortable. When it comes to sleeping, I felt like the Princess and the Pea…having to position myself just so. No matter what, though, I woke up in the night being jabbed by one of them. Middle-of-the-night F-Bombs dropped regularly.

The JP drains are emptied (and contents measured) twice a day.  The Brookside Husband has been nothing short of extraordinary (as I know you already know!).  Twice a day, we had our emptying routine.  Alcohol wipes. Measuring Cups. Emptying. Cleaning. Re-cleaning. He even remembered from High School Chemistry Class that containers need to be rinsed three times.  Impressive.

The drains have to stay in place until less than 30 milliliters of fluid are drained from each in a day. CC’s and ML’s are the same, by the way.

Well, onto the SL of the day.  I had a check-up appointment in LA today with my plastic surgeon.  Still sooooo bizarre to say that I have a plastic surgeon. Really?  Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do.  He is ultra-conservative, which I deeply value in any plastic surgeon, but especially mine.  He was so happy with the minimal output of all four drains that he removed them ALL. Now, this did hurt like a M-F; however, it was absolutely 150% worth the joy of it!  YIPPPEEEEE!

As of this post, I am drain free and healing well.  So, take THAT, FBC! :–)

I have to keep reminding myself that I have to continue to move S L O W L Y. No lifting my elbows. No picking anything up over 5 lbs. Still lots of “No’s”…however, I’m focusing on the SL Yes’s!

You think this simulation is bad?  Well, let me promise you that it’s much better than seeing me and my reality!

Leave a comment


  1. Patricia Dove says

    I was recently diagnosed with FBC!! I am an active, healthy 42 year-old with no other health issues so to say this was a shock is an understatement. I am a teacher and so the first thing I did was look for a book! I found all of the medical information available(and with several doctors and nurses in the family I had a wealth of informational support). I wanted an up to date personal account that I could relate to – that brought me to your book/website. I made the choice to be as positive as possible (within reason, I still have my punch the wall moments)but I do believe that you have to actively make that choice and I make it again every day…I had my lumpectomy/axillary dissection last Tuesday (May 6th 2014). I still have the drain in – I was hoping it would be out by now, it's driving me crazy. I have a lot of nerve pain but am getting more mobile everyday. Your book is my daily reminder to make that choice to be positive and find that, although sometimes elusive, silver lining. My family has been a constant source of silver linings. My husband has been a rock for me – he manages to find a way to make me laugh at this everyday – not an easy thing to do!
    Thank you for sharing your story and helping me to find a way through this mess.

    take care,
    Patricia Dove

  2. R S JOHAR says

    my wife who had undergone mastectomy on 15 mar 2014 drainage is still continuing till date ie 05 may which is around 300 ml. Can the pipe not be removed earlier or it has to continue till it is 20 ml ?

    • silverpen says

      Hi RS, Thank you for your note and inquiry. The simple answer is: it depends. Truly the situation varies with each person and I highly recommend discussing this with your wife's doctor. What I will say is that doctors typically prefer that the drain not be removed until the fluid amounts go down significantly, usually to about 20 ml/cc a day. All my very best wishes to you both!

    • says

      Be careful of having drains pulled too early. I had surgery in April and my first Jp tube back in September and it got clogged inside. I went back to surgery for two Jp tubes as we are trying to use one as a back up. So, two surgeries in three weeks time. If this don’t work I will have some kind of plastic surgery to pull that tissue or skin from under my arm up to try and build up to redirect the fluid. I say deal with it now because it may be problems later. My radiologist wanted mine removed for tattoo and getting me ready for radiation.

  3. says

    I'm so happy to have discovered your blog though Breast Cancer.Org. Thank you for sharing your story … for the reality of living through and with this from not only your side of it, but that of your husband as well.

    Last May a suspicious spot in a mammogram showing up began my F-bomb BC journey. Although, it wouldn't have been so bad if the margins had been clear after a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy in June. I healed nicely with no drains and no disfigurement since the cancer had been in my larger breast. But they weren't clear, so my journey continued with a double mastectomy … and no reconstruction in mid-August. My F-bomb drains were in for EIGHT weeks! And what a "drain" they were to maintain and sleep around. I'm lucky to not have to go through radiation nor chemotherapy, but will have hormone therapy for the next 5 years. I'm doing okay, but am definitely not "up to speed." I think mourning for my old self and a full and highly productive life has nearly run its course, but I'm still "tender." I look forward to finding my new normal and getting on with it.

    • says

      Dear Nellie,
      THANK YOU so much for your comment and for sharing your story. I am deeply appreciative. Wow, eight weeks with those JP's is very very draining. A new normal will come. Sometimes it takes a while, but it will come.
      All my very best wishes to you during your period of tenderness.
      Please stay in touch.

      • gabriela says

        Hi, I am on my 4th week after double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and expanders in place. JP tubes are still in, out put 35 to 40 cc, i wonder when would these number do down. The tubes are uncofortable, while the surgery itself is ok,

        • says

          Dear Gabriela,
          Thank you very much for your comment. Generally the time frame is 7 to 10 days; however, there are lots of women for whom it takes longer…much longer. I vividly remember how frustrating the process is. It WILL cease eventually. How often do you see your surgeon? This whole process of FBC is one with a mind of its own. Patience is the key ingredient to get you through.
          By the way, I'm so happy to hear that you did well with the surgery.
          Please keep me posted….

  4. Carol says

    I had a double mascetomy on April 27th. I too was diagnosed with Stage II cancer (left breast) and had one sentinel node involved. I am required to receive ACT chemo for 4 months every other week and then radiation (one tumor was close to the skin). UNLIKE you, I have had my two J&P drains in me for six weeks, and I am still producing about 25ml every 12 hours. My plastic surgeon (yes, it is weird to say that) will not take the drains out until I am producing 25ml or less in 24 hours. I have been told by her, as well as by my oncologist, that my body is healing and that everyone is different. This is their mantra whenever I ask why I'm still draining when everyone else I speak to drains for less than HALF that amount of time. I truly respect them both – but, I need to know more. I have tried to search the info on the internet, but it seems the answer is the same "everyone is different" . . . why am I THAT different though I can't help but wonder. Have you ever heard of someone draining for this long a period of time?

    • says

      Hi Carol,
      Thanks so much for your note. I have actually heard of people who have had their drains in for this amount of time. It's a real bummer and (as you know) I fell into the "everyone is different" category a lot and I do know that it is frustrating. Ugh. I just hope that it ends for you sooner rather than later. Please keep me posted on your progress. You have inspired me to do an "Everyone is Different" post…becuase that grey area is a real challenging place to be.
      Take good care!

  5. says

    Dear, no I don't have any personal experience with drains. What a great husband.had dinner in Chicago last night with Mary, Sarah and Jen. Part of a "bet" story between Mary and Jen. Very special night and tour of Charlie Trotter's. Can't wait to try the carrot soup w lemon recipe!

  6. Laura McGrew says

    Good morning Hollye,
    I am delighted those drains are gone. You and JJ are something else – loving and so grounded. Enjoy this day.
    And take care, of course.

  7. Cynthia says

    Hi Hollye,

    Well, i bet you thought no one would comment on your blog about surgery drains…well here i am! My son had surgery last spring and no one thought to mention to me prior to surgery that "you will need to attend to his drain bag for a week after surgery, about every four hours". You are a nurse, so that is probably no big deal to you. But rest assured, to a non-nurse who doesn't even like to take off bandaids, I felt sorry enough for myself as the mother of the patient, so having to empty, measure, clean, reclean, reattach, etc….left me in a complete tizzy. I'm so glad your drains have been removed!!!!

    xo cynthia