Your doctor may ask you to flush your drainage tube. In some cases, flushing the tube can help keep it from getting clogged or help it drain more fluid. You will use sterile normal saline (salt water) to do this. Your doctor will tell you how much normal saline to use and how often to flush.

Flush with ____________ milliliters (mL) of saline ____________ times each day.


  • Sterile 10 mL normal saline syringe

  • New end cap

  • Alcohol swab

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry with a clean towel. Gather all your supplies and place them on a clean surface near you.

  2. Unscrew the end cap on the stopcock valve that connects to your drainage tube.

  3. Scrub the stopcock valve with the alcohol swab for 15 seconds and make sure valve does not touch anything after scrubbing.

  4. Take the white cap off the saline syringe and remove the air from the syringe by gently screwing the syringe onto the stopcock.

  5. There is a lever on the stopcock. Turn the lever so that it points toward your drainage bag and away from your body.

  6. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe to inject the saline into the tube going into your body. You may have a cool feeling while you are doing this. You should not have pain.
    You should not have to force the saline in. If the saline does not go in easily or if it is painful to flush, call Interventional Radiology and you will be told what to do.

  7. Turn the stopcock lever so that it points back up to the syringe.

  8. Unscrew the syringe and place a new end cap on the stopcock. Be careful to not let the stopcock touch anything in the environment. It if does, you can clean it with a new alcohol swab. If your end cap is dropped, please use a new one.

  9. Keep track of how much fluid you flush into your drain.

When to Call

  • Leaking around the tube.

  • Pain with flushing.

  • Trouble flushing the tube, or you feel resistance.

  • New redness, swelling or foul-smelling drainage around the tube site.

  • If your drain is accidentally pulled out, cover it with gauze and call.

  • Any questions or concerns.

Who to Call

Interventional Radiology
Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
(608) 263-9729, option #3

Ask to leave a message for the Interventional Radiology nurse.

After hours, call (608) 262-2122. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the Interventional Radiology Resident on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.

Toll-free number: 1-800-323-8942.