Drain Placement

Why is a drainage tube placed?
Fluid can collect almost anywhere in the body. This fluid may be from a primary infection, a complication of surgery, rupture of hollow organs, cysts, or a host of other sources. If this fluid collection becomes infected it is called an abscess. An abscess contains dead cells, bacteria, and other debris, which causes inflammation and pain. Abscesses require drainage because antibiotics cannot enter into the infected area due to lack of blood supply. Sometimes these collections are drained surgically and other times they may be drained through a small hole in the skin (percutaneously).

Percutaneous drainages are performed using imaging guidance which may be in the form of one or more modalities: ultrasound, CT, MRI or fluoroscopy (live x-rays.)

What are the symptoms of an abscess?

  • fever
  • chills
  • sweating
  • infection
  • pain

What happens during the procedure?
Conscious Sedation is usually provided prior to starting the procedure.Patients will lie flat on the x-ray table then will be connected to several types of monitoring equipment. The skin overlying the area of concern is cleaned with a betadine solution after which sterile drapes are placed around the planned drainage site.

One of the imaging modalities (CT /US/ X-ray) is used to select the best site from which to approach the area to be drained and lidocaine local anesthesia is injected into the overlying skin. A needle is used to puncture the fluid collection/abscess and introduce a wire into the cavity. The track through the skin is sequentially dilated using tapered plastic tubes called “dilators.” This will make the track large enough, (approximately 3-4mm,) for placing the drainage tube. The tube is sutured to the skin and the fluid drains into a bag which can be emptied as needed. If the fluid looks infected, samples will be sent to the laboratory.

This procedure takes approx 1 hour. 

What happens after the procedure? 
Since conscious sedation medicine was administered patients will be required to stay to recover for 2 hours after the end of the procedure. While in recovery, patients are monitored closely to ensure that the effects of the sedation have worn off. Patients must have a responsible adult available to drive/escort you home from the hospital. Patients will keep the drain in place until seen by a doctor for a follow up appointment which will be scheduled at the time of the procedure.  


If you have any questions or need to reschedule an appointment please feel free to contact the Interventional Radiology Office at 802- 847-8359. Our business hours are Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Someone is available to take your call after hours for emergencies.

This information is provided by the Fletcher Allen Health Care, Department of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact your health care provider.