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Information for patients undergoing a percutaneous drainage procedure

Patient information A-Z

This leaflet has been designed to answer some of the common questions you may have regarding your percutaneous drainage. This is the starting point for discussion about your treatment with the doctors looking after you, who may wish to make sure you have received enough information about the procedure before signing the consent form.

What is a percutaneous drainage procedure?

A percutaneous drainage is a way of removing fluid, using a small tube (drain) through a tiny skin incision. This is usually performed to relieve the symptoms of the build-up of fluid such as ascites or to drain infected collections. Some of this fluid may be sent off to be examined by a pathologist to gain further information about the nature of the fluid. The procedure is called “percutaneous” as it is done through the skin. The radiologist undertaking the procedure will use either an ultrasound machine or a CT scanner to guide the needle into the correct place.

Why do I need a percutaneous drainage procedure?

Other tests you have had have shown a collection of fluid. It may not be possible to determine what the fluid is from the previous test. If there is a lot of fluid it may be causing you discomfort that can be relieved by draining it. The fluid collection may be also be a cause of infection which can be treated by draining it.

Who will be doing the drainage procedure?

The doctors in charge of your case will have discussed the situation with the radiology department and have agreed that a percutaneous drainage will be the best thing to do. A radiologist will perform the procedure. A radiologist has special expertise in using scanning equipment (CT and ultrasound) and in interpreting the images produced. They will look at these images whilst performing the biopsy.

Preparation for a drainage procedure

The procedure will either take place in the CT or ultrasound department (part of the radiology department). This will usually be undertaken as an in-patient. You may have some blood tests prior to the drainage to check you do not have an increased risk of bleeding. If you are taking any blood thinning medications, like warfarin, Aspirin, Rivaroxaban, Dabigatran, Apixaban, Edoxaban or Clopidogrel, Ticagrelor or you have a daily injection to thin your blood, you should inform your doctor before the procedure. If you have any allergies you must inform the doctor/nurse. If you have previously reacted to contrast medium (the dye used for CT imaging) you must tell your doctor about this.

What happens during a drainage procedure?

On arrival at the x-ray department, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown.

You will then be asked to lie on the CT scanner table or ultrasound couch in the position that the radiologist has decided is most suitable. The radiologist will keep everything as clean as possible. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic, and you may have some of your body covered with a sterile sheet. The radiologist will use the ultrasound machine or the CT scanner to decide on the most suitable point for inserting the drain. Your skin will be then anaesthetised, to ensure the area is numb and a needle inserted into the fluid collection. The drain will then be inserted through the skin.

The drainage procedures should not be too uncomfortable. The local anaesthetic used to anaesthetise the skin will sting at the start of the procedure, but this will soon pass as the skin and deeper tissues become numb. You may be aware of a pressure sensation as the needle and drain passes into the deeper tissues but this is usually well tolerated. Following the procedure the drainage tube will be left in place and a bag attached to collect the fluid. The length of time the drain stays in will depend on the amount and type of fluid being drained and can be discussed at the time of the procedure with your doctor.

How long does a drainage procedure take?

This will depend on the situation of the fluid collection. The procedure may take over 30 minutes, although you will be in the department for a longer period.

What happens after a drainage procedure?

Depending on the type of drainage you may be asked to stay in bed for a few hours until you have recovered. A nurse will carry out routine observations, such as taking your pulse and blood pressure, to make sure there are no problems. If you have any pain following the procedure, we may give you some pain-relief medication. Depending on the type of drainage you are likely to have to stay in hospital overnight. Alternatively, this may be undertaken as a day case, which will be decided on the day, therefore please be prepared to stay overnight. The doctors looking after you will decide how long the drainage tube will be left in place.

We recommend you do not undertake strenuous activity and rest for the remainder of the day.

Can I drive home afterwards?

We recommend that you do not drive for twenty four hours and you should ask a friend or relative to drive you home following your procedure.

Possible problems

Drainage procedures are very safe procedures; however, there are a few risks or complications that may arise. The radiologist undertaking your drainage will explain the procedure and any potential complications before you sign a consent form.

What do I do if I feel unwell after I have gone home?

If you feel unwell after your procedure, you should seek medical advice from your GP/ hospital doctor or through the emergency department and inform them that you have had a drainage procedure. You will be given an information sheet before you are discharged.

Further information or comments

If you have any comments or feedback regarding the procedure or this information leaflet then please do not hesitate to contact the x-ray department.

Privacy and dignity

Same sex bays and bathrooms are offered in all wards except critical care and theatre recovery areas where the use of high-tech equipment and/or specialist one to one care is required.

Procedure information - Print page and complete form
Procedure undertaken
Radiologist who performed the procedure
Date and time of procedure
Discharge to home or ward
Any complications
Signature of discharging doctor

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151