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Surgical Drain Locations After Breast Surgery

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Updated June 03, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Surgical Drains After Mastectomy Without Reconstruction
Surgical Drains After Mastectomy

Surgical Drains After Mastectomy

Art © Pam Stephan
For patients who have a simple mastectomy without immediate reconstruction, you may have one long incision that includes your lymph node biopsy as well as your mastectomy. Your surgeon may place surgical drains in your incision to help speed up your healing. These surgical drains are called by several names: grenade drains, JP drains, or Jackson-Pratt drains.

Each drain has a drainage bulb and a drainage tube outside your skin near your surgical incision. Part of the drainage tube will extend though your incision into the surgical area, where it will collect blood and lymphatic fluid. Each drainage tube is held in place with a suture, so that it doesn't accidentally slip out.

You will take daily measurements of how much blood and lymph collects in your surgical drain. It is important to keep a record of the fluid volume, because this determines how soon your drains can be removed. The swelling around your surgical site will decrease as you get less fluid out your drains.

This illustration shows the location of two surgical drains. The model has had a simple mastectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, so there is a drain line close to her armpit as well as at her breast site. She did not have immediate reconstruction. These drains help prevent lymphedema and hematomas from developing.

See Surgical Drains For a Mastectomy With Immediate Reconstruction

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