Drainage Catheter


A drainage catheter is a small, flexible, hollow and thin tube that is inserted through the body cavity, duct, skin or vessel to drain out unwanted fluids that have accumulated inside the body or to distend a passageway. This type of catheter enables the bodily fluids to drain into a drainage bag. Drainage catheters have the advantage of being able to be inserted into almost any area of the body, informally known as “pigtails.”

The main functions of drainage catheters are to drain abscess collections, cysts or seromas.

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frequently asked questions

What types of catheters are there?

There are two types of drainage catheters: temporary and permanent. A temporary catheter is used for abscesses or post surgical drainage fluids.

A permanent catheter is for aiding with end state malignant pleural effusion or ascites.

The types of catheters placed at SDMI include: pigtail catheter, pleural catheter and peritoneal catheter.

How do I prepare for my procedure?

SDMI performs outpatient catheterization, and there are a few required steps:

  • Patients should not eat or drink at least six hours before the procedure is performed.
  • Patients should arrive one hour before the procedure is to be performed, with the appropriate physician paperwork.
  • Have a caretaker or guardian available, as the patient will require a ride home.

When the drainage catheter procedure is performed, an intravenous (IV) will be inserted into the skin to provide antibiotics and mild sedatives during the procedure. The patient’s skin will be numbed with a medicine called Lidocaine. Once numbed, a CT or ultrasound scan will be performed and a small nick is made under the skin via a small needle. A wire will then be passed through the needle and the catheter is placed over the wire.

Once the drainage catheter procedure is complete, the patient will experience some soreness and discomfort, which may limit some physical activity. Standard aspirin can help to alleviate some discomfort. Positioning of the catheter will be set up and explained by a radiology nurse, along with instructions on how to care for a catheter at home.

How do I care for my catheter?

It is important to take good care of the skin around the drainage catheter in order to prevent infection, which can occur if the catheter gets blocked. The skin must be kept dry and if the bandages get wet, they should be changed immediately. It is also important to make sure the drainage catheter is properly secured to your skin to prevent it from getting snagged or tangled on clothing.

It is important to call your referring physician if any of the following occur:

  • The catheter becomes dislodged or broken
  • The stitches become loose
  • The catheter experiences leakage
  • The skin remains reddened and sore for more than 48 hours
  • The catheter has stopped draining

How do I schedule this procedure?

This procedure is considered an Interventional Radiology, or “Special Procedure.” To schedule, call us at 702-732-6000 (option 1).

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Maryland Parkway

2950 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Lobby Opens 6:30am
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2767 N. Tenaya Way
Las Vegas, NV 89128
Lobby Opens 6:30am
Lobby Opens 7:30am
X-Ray performed 8:00am–1:30pm.
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