Following some lung operations, you may need a chest drain. A chest drain is designed to remove the blood, fluid and air which collect within the chest cavity after surgery, something which allows the lung to re-expand.

The drain is a one-way system that prevents fluid and air from returning to the chest by placing a tube in your chest and draining the fluid into a chest drain bottle at the other end. The tube is held in place with a stitch (suture). A small amount of sterile fluid will remain in the drainage bottle at all times.

The fluid may become discoloured with blood and appear to have bubbles in it – this is normal. Your drains will be check regularly observing the amount of drainage and bubbling. At first your drains may be attached to suction to help your lung re-expand. You will be encouraged to walk around the ward or use an exercise bike to further help your lung to re-expand. The length of time you remain “on suction” varies from person to person.

Chest drains will be removed once they have finished draining fluid and air. This usually takes a few days.

Looking after a chest drain

To help you take care of your chest drain(s) you should:

  • Make sure you keep the bottles below the level of your chest at all times. The drains work using gravity so the flow out of your chest must always be downwards.
  • Carry the bottle(s) either by the handle or in a carrier. Avoid trapping, kinking and folding the tubing as this may prevent easy drainage.
  • Try to keep the tubing free to prevent pulling on them as this may cause discomfort and pain.
  • Keep the chest drain bottles upright and standing on the floor. Please do not panic if the bottle tips over. Simply stand it up again and ask a nurse to check everything is working properly. If the tube becomes detached from the bottle please do not panic. Call a nurse immediately and he/she will ensure the system is correctly attached again for you. You may need an extra chest X-ray to check this.  

There are currently no related conditions associated with this treatment.