This involves drainage of fluid through a needle or plastic tube. The needle or tube is guided into place using an ultrasound, CT or X-Ray machine.


You will be positioned in the best way to access the area to be drained. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic and local anaesthetic will be given. The radiologist will make a small incision in the skin. A needle is usually inserted first, using an ultrasound, CT or X-ray machine to guide it into the correct area. A plastic tube is inserted to drain the fluid for collection. It may be necessary to make more than one pass of the needle to achieve adequate placement.

The tube will be held in position by a dressing on the skin.

Most commonly, a short stay hospital admission is arranged to allow the fluid to drain over several hours.

Sometimes the tube may stay in overnight if you are an inpatient. Rarely, the drain is left in for longer periods.

The drain can be removed easily on the ward and a small dressing is applied.

Risks / Side Effects

Potential risks include infection and bleeding.

  • Aseptic technique is used to minimise the risk of infection as much as possible.
  • The needle may puncture an organ or blood vessel. Rarely, excessive bleeding can occur and may require drainage, transfusion or surgery.

If the needle punctures the bowel there may be some leakage into the abdominal cavity which can cause infection and require surgery.

Before your Scan

It is essential that your previous x-ray, CT or ultrasound films are available at the time of the drainage. Please bring these with you to your examination if you have them.

Please inform us if you are on medication to thin your blood (eg. Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel). You may need to stop this prior to the procedure after discussion with your doctor.

It is important that you have someone to drive you home after the procedure.

Other Information

The drain will stay in until your treating doctor decides it should be removed. This may be several hours or days.

Once the drain is removed a dressing will be applied. There may be a small ooze from the site which should stop after a few hours.

You should avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours following the drainage.

You may experience some discomfort.

  • If required, a simple analgesic such as paracetamol (Panadol), NOT Aspirin, should be sufficient.

Infection is a potential side effect – If you notice any increased redness, swelling, fever or pain, notify your referring doctor or call the clinic where the drainage was performed immediately.

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