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Can I empty the drains after the mastectomy myself?

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EZhang123
EZhang123 Member Posts: 6

Hi,

I'm going to have bilateral mastectomy with SLNB at the end of March. I live by myself and wonder if I will be able to empty the drains myself? The nurse from the surgeon's office said I can do that so there won't be need for visiting nurse. Could you let me know your thought?

Thank you!

Comments

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited March 2021
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    Yes, you can! Part of the discharge teaching the nurse does is to make sure you know how to empty the drains yourself. It's easy!

    You only need to return to a clinic to have the drains removed.

    Depending on your hospital stay though you might need someone at home the first night. We require people to have someone with them for 24h after discharge after general anesthesia (but we discharge same day or next day).

  • Anniette
    Anniette Member Posts: 2
    edited March 2021
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    I emptied mine without any problems. One thing I was told by someone else is how to deal with the drains while you have them. I purchased a robe with pockets on the inside(or you can add them) to tuck the drains into.

    When I had to go out of the house I had large safety pins and attached them to the inside of the shirt I was wearing.

  • threetree
    threetree Member Posts: 1,422
    edited March 2021
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    EZ - I only had a single mastectomy, but I live alone too. Doing one drain by oneself is no problem (yucky and I didn't like having to do it, but it is totally do-able). Because I live alone, I decided not to even explore the idea of bilateral, since my cancer was only on one side - I had wondered about the prophylactic benefit. Re the hospital stay mentioned by Moth, in my case I stayed in the hospital for several days before going home; about three nights, I think. A friend drove me home and walked me up to my apartment, but then I stayed alone from then on. I seem to remember the doctor wanted to arrange for me to have as much hospital time as possible, maybe because I do live alone, because there were no complications with the surgery.

  • specialk
    specialk Member Posts: 9,233
    edited March 2021
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    I had no problem stripping my own drains and I have had them a number of times, but be sure to have a complete understanding of how to do it, suggested frequency, and the correct supplies before you go home. I found that having those little individually packaged square alcohol wipes folded around the drain tubing like a little taco were very helpful in allowing your fingers to glide along easily, extra helpful if doing it yourself. I was always given the little disposable measuring cups to measure output. A pad of paper - sometimes they supply you with a log - and pen to write down volume, and disposable gloves or antibacterial soap and paper towels to dry your hands. I also found that using some gauze and tape to secure the drain exit area from my skin helped make an unexpected tug less uncomfortable when turning over or moving about. I used large safety pins to attach the loop on the tab of the drain bulb to my shirt. I have also used a nail apron from Home Depot which is super inexpensive, like $1.50 (will link) but there are also some other commercial products marketed toward this specifically. I have also linked a drain stripping video, which is not at all graphic, so you can get an idea of how it is done if you have not seen it previously.

    https://www.homedepot.com/b/Tools-Tool-Storage-Tool-Belts/The-Home-Depot/Tool-Apron/N-5yc1vZc27zZ724Z1z1dlz8?storeSelection=

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDv1D2c8eLY

  • hapa
    hapa Member Posts: 613
    edited March 2021
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    I stripped my drains in the shower. Put a little bit of soap on my hands for lube and it was super easy. Dumping them was as simple as dumping other small bottle.

  • ajminn3
    ajminn3 Member Posts: 284
    edited March 2021
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    Yes you can! I actually preferred doing it myself vs. having my husband help. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m not great with medical stuff and get easily grossed out, but I did it and it wasn’t terrible.

  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293
    edited March 2021
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    fwiw, hapa, that would not be the advised method here as we require people to measure their drain output...so it has to be poured into a measuring cup & recorded. We also no longer recommend stripping the tubing.... but that's going to be policy/surgeon/drain brand specific.


  • EZhang123
    EZhang123 Member Posts: 6
    edited March 2021
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    Thank you everyone for the quick replies. I'll make sure I keep the safety pins around.

    @Special K - Really appreciate the detail description! I'll start gathering the supplies. The video is also very helpful.

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,933
    edited March 2021
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    I second what everyone has said. Unless you cannot use your hands, emptying drains is a piece of cake. I also agree that emptying and dumping in the shower is probably not advisable since the contents of the drain need to be measured. As part of your discharge instructions you should be shown how to empty the drains correctly but again, it is very simple,

  • rah2464
    rah2464 Member Posts: 1,192
    edited March 2021
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    Stripping the drains yourself is easy unless you have any range of motion problems. You may have to reach and bend an elbow around depending on where they are located. I had to hold the top area of the drain and strip with the "free" hand because otherwise it tugged too much.

    My PS sent me home with this little velcro belt. My drains had velcro tabs and they just attached to it. So easy

  • lindavec46
    lindavec46 Member Posts: 1
    edited March 2021
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    yes. Just make sure you have everything set up close to you so you don't have to do alot of stretching and moving around. I just had a double mastectomy and they removed two of my lymph nodes on my left side. So that side is more painful when I stretch that my right. Don't push on your elbows to move..I am lucky enough to have a split queen bed that the head and feet of the bed goes up and down. It really hasn't been all bad. Like I said make sure EVERYTHING you need is close by. Tissue, your meds, water, phone, reading material. I read you can also use a lanyard to hold the drains. I didn't care for that, cause it ends up sitting on you chest/stomach. I just safety pinned mine to the sides of my pj top. 👍❤

  • threetree
    threetree Member Posts: 1,422
    edited March 2021
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    Re managing the drains, and all the pinning, velcroing, etc. suggestion, here is one more: I bought an inexpensive belt on Amazon that was designed specifically with pockets to hold the drain (you can do one or two), and that worked well for me; can wear it inside/under a shirt. It was mesh and worked while taking a shower too. I found that there are a whole lot of products out there (special shirts, belts, etc.) designed just for post mastectomy drains, and while I really dislike the idea of having to buy stuff, and I do think they price gouge and take advantage of those in a bad situation, I did break down and buy the mesh drain belt, and I didn't regret it. There's a ton of stuff on Amazon for all this post surgery, post mastectomy situation. I had no idea until I was looking for something else, like chemo hats. A lot of it is unnecessary and overpriced - again seeming to take advantage of cancer patients, but some of it can actually be worth it. Just fine tooth comb it all and carefully consider and weigh what you might want.

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,178
    edited March 2021
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    Could go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, get carpenters apron to put drain bulbs in.

  • sbelizabeth
    sbelizabeth Member Posts: 956
    edited March 2021
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    My husband's an engineer. After my DIEP surgery I had four drains, and he insisted on TAKING CHARGE. He built a spreadsheet, complete with addition formulas, and I didn't dare touch my own drains because he was TAKING CHARGE. He gave each drain a name. (I'm a nurse, by the way, and completely capable of taking care of my own drains, but what they hey, it gave him some control).

    Here's my tip: when I showered, I tied a long piece of narrow grosgrain ribbon into a loop and put it over my head. I hung the drains from it, using the safety pin they come with. It kept the drains from pulling on my skin where they were sutured in. My plastic surgeon allowed me to shower 24 hours after surgery--other surgeons aren't so liberal.

  • minustwo
    minustwo Member Posts: 13,147
    edited March 2021
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    I had no problem stripping my own drains. I found a zip front sweatshirt with inside pockets that I got at someplace like Kohls or Marshall's and bought two. Perfect. I've loaned them to at least 2 other women since. When I showered, I attached the drains to a lanyard that was used to clip IDs at work. I did need help wrapping my body with Glad Press N Seal since my doc also said early showering was OK, but absolutely no water got near the drain holes.

    That said - my drains were in front. If they're out of you're back (like for kidney surgery), I think you'd need help.

  • DiveCat
    DiveCat Member Posts: 290
    edited March 2021
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    I managed my drains on my own entirely, and the nurse made sure I could do it before I left hospital.

    I had a spreadsheet in a notebook to record time and output (my bulbs had measurements on them, so I did not need to pour into a measuring cup first). I was dedicated to monitoring so I could get them out as soon as could! I also recorded medication in the book. Had little alcohol wipes to disinfect tubing and outside of bulbs and other disinfectant wipes for clean up of bathroom regularly.

    I got a couple kangaroo belts (soft cotton elastic bands with pouches on it) for drains. Helped a lot! I know you can find more affordable options on Amazon now. I also had soft gauze on hand to lightly pad the drain holes to reduce friction from surgical bra/clothing which could be uncomfortable.

    Washing your own hair will be a much bigger deal. I needed my husband to help me bathe and wash hair when I was able. Recommend if you are on own to book some wash and dry appointments at a salon and find someone to drive you/get an Uber. It will feel very refreshing after a few days


  • EZhang123
    EZhang123 Member Posts: 6
    edited March 2021
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    Much thanks to the tips from everyone. I feel a bit less anxious now.

  • cangold
    cangold Member Posts: 35
    edited March 2021
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    DiveCat, I totally agree w/ you about washing hair. I've been doing it myself, but hurts like hell afterwards.I'll be booking salon appts on Monday. Smile