Hemovac drain

A Hemovac drain was 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 health care provider will tell you how often you need to empty the drain. Your nurse will show you how to empty and take care of your drain. The following instructions will help you at home. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or nurse.

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 cleaner like Purell.
  • Unpin the Hemovac drain from your clothes.
  • Remove the stopper or plug. The Hemovac drain will expand. Do NOT let the stopper or the top of the drain opening touch anything. If it does, clean the stopper with alcohol.
  • Pour all of the liquid from the drain into the measuring cup. You may need to turn it over 2 or 3 times.
  • Place the Hemovac drain on a clean, flat surface. Press down on it with 1 hand until the drainage container is flat.
  • While holding the container flat with 1 hand, put the stopper back into the spout with the other hand.
  • Pin the Hemovac drain back onto your clothes.
  • Write down the date, time, and the amount of drainage you poured out of the container. 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 well.

Changing Your Dressing

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

Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Put on clean (not sterile) medical gloves. Loosen the tape carefully, and take off the old bandage. Throw the old bandage into a plastic trash bag. 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 medical gloves and put them in the plastic trash bag. Put on the second pair.

Put a new bandage around the site where the drain goes in. Use surgical tape to hold it down against your skin. Tape the tubing to the bandages. Throw all used supplies in the trash bag. Wash your hands well.

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 higher than 100 °F, or 38.0 °C.
  • Your skin is very red where the tube comes out (a small amount of redness is normal).
  • There is drainage from the skin around the tube site.
  • There is more tenderness and swelling at the drain site.
  • Your drainage is cloudy or has a bad odor.
  • Drainage increases for more than 2 days in a row.
  • The drainage suddenly stops after there has been constant drainage.


Altman GB, ed. Skin integrity and wound care. Delmar’s Fundamental and Advanced Nursing Skills. 2nd Ed. New York, NY: Thomson; 1999:chap 9.

Update Date: 6/27/2012

Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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