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 of saline ____________ times each day.


Sterile 10 mL normal saline syringe

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry with a clean towel.

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

  3. Take the white cap off the syringe and screw the syringe on to the stopcock.

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


  5. 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 to force the saline in. If it does not go in easily, call Interventional Radiology and you will be told what to do.

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

  7. Unscrew the syringe and place a new blue cap on the stopcock.

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

  • 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.

The toll-free number is:1-800-323-8942.

If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.