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Hemovac drain

Surgical drain; Hemovac drain - caring for; Hemovac drain - emptying; Hemovac drain - changing dressing


What to Expect at Home

A Hemovac drain is placed under your skin during surgery. This drain removes any blood or other fluids that might build up in this area. You can go home with the drain still in place.

Your nurse will tell you how often you need to empty the drain. You will also be shown how to empty and take care of your drain. The following instructions will help you at home. If you have questions, ask your health care provider.

Emptying Your Drain


Items you will need are:

  • A measuring cup
  • A pen and a piece of paper

To empty your drain:

  • Clean your hands well with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser.
  • Unpin the Hemovac drain from your clothes.
  • Remove the stopper or plug from the spout. The Hemovac container will expand. DO NOT let the stopper or the top of the spout touch anything. If it does, clean the stopper with alcohol.
  • Pour all of the liquid from the container into the measuring cup. You may need to turn the container over 2 or 3 times so that all the fluid comes out.
  • Place the container on a clean, flat surface. Press down on the container with one hand until it is flat.
  • With the other hand, put the stopper back into the spout.
  • Pin the Hemovac drain back onto your clothes.
  • Write down the date, time, and the amount of fluid you poured. Bring this information with you to your first follow-up visit after you are discharged from the hospital.
  • Pour the fluid into the toilet and flush.
  • Wash your hands again.


Changing Your Dressing


A dressing may be covering your drain. If not, keep the area around the drain clean with soapy water, when you are in the shower or during a sponge bath. Ask your nurse if you are allowed to shower with the drain in place.

Items you will need are:

  • Two pairs of clean, unused medical gloves
  • Five or 6 cotton swabs
  • Gauze pads
  • Clean soapy water
  • Plastic trash bag
  • Surgical tape
  • Waterproof pad or bath towel

To change the dressing:

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
  • Put on clean medical gloves.
  • Loosen the tape carefully, and take off the old bandage. Throw the old bandage into a plastic trash bag.
  • Inspect your skin where the drainage tube comes out. Look for any new redness, swelling, bad odor, or pus.
  • Use a cotton swab dipped in the soapy water to clean the skin around the drain. Do this 3 or 4 times, using a new swab each time.
  • Take off the first pair of gloves and put them in the plastic trash bag. Put on the second pair.
  • Place a new bandage over the skin where the drainage tube comes out. Tape the bandage to your skin using surgical tape. Then tape the tubing to the bandages.
  • Throw all used supplies in the trash bag.
  • Wash your hands again.


When to Call the Doctor


Call your doctor if:

  • The stitches that hold the drain to your skin are coming loose or are missing.
  • The tube falls out.
  • Your temperature is 100.5°F (38.0°C) or higher.
  • Your skin is very red where the tube comes out (a small amount of redness is normal).
  • Fluid drains from the skin around the tube site.
  • There is more tenderness and swelling at the drain site.
  • The liquid is cloudy or has a bad odor.
  • The amount of liquid increases for more than 2 days in a row.
  • Fluid suddenly stops draining after there has been constant drainage.




Lynn PB. Caring for a Hemovac drain. In: Lynn PB, ed. Taylor's Handbook of Clinical Nursing Skills . 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwers; 2014:chap 50.


        Self Care


        Tests for Hemovac drain



          Review Date: 2/27/2016

          Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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