The Ins and Outs of Using a PleurX Catheter

What is a PleurX catheter?

The PleurX catheter system is designed to allow drainage of fluid that has accumulated in the chest or abdomen.  A tunneled catheter is placed under the skin of the chest or abdomen, depending on where your fluid build-up is, and secured in place with a suture.  The catheter is placed by your physician and can be done as an outpatient procedure (PleurX drainage kit, 2010).

Why do I need a PleurX catheter system?

A PleurX catheter is beneficial for patients who suffer from frequent pleural effusions or malignant ascites.  This system allows patients to drain fluid from the comfort of their own home and reduces the need for frequent trips to the hospital or doctors office (PleurX drainage kit, 2010).

Helpful tips for taking care of a PleurX catheter.

You will drain the fluid as directed by your doctor-typically every one to two days. 

Do not drain more than 1000ml from your chest or 2000ml from your abdomen at a time. 

You will apply a new dressing over the tail of the catheter each time you drain fluid. 

You may shower with a water-proof dressing over your catheter.  If the gauze around your catheter becomes wet while showering change the dressing immediately.

(PleurX drainage kit: Frequently asked questions, 2008).

How do I drain a PluerX catheter?

1. Prepare a workspace that is clean and large enough to place your supplies.

2. Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water for at least 1 minute.

3. Remove old dressing from catheter site.

4. Open drainage kit and place blue wrapped package on clean workspace.

5. Unwrap the blue package being careful not to touch the items inside.  These items are sterile and the blue wrapping will serve as your sterile field.

6. Next remove the vacuum bottle from the plastic bag making sure the plastic shield covering the access tip of the catheter remains intact.  The vacuum bottle and catheter are sterile and it is important that the access tip of the catheter remain sterile.  If the protective shield is missing from the access tip of the catheter do not touch the tip with hands or any item that is not sterile.

 7. Remove the 3 alcohol pads from the drainage kits and tear open leaving pad in packaging and place next to blue wrapping.

8. From the unwrapped blue package pick up one glove by the wrist and place on the opposite hand.  Pick up the second glove by the wrist and place on other hand.  These gloves are sterile and it is important that nothing touch the outside of the gloves, such as your skin. 

9. Open the package containing the valve cap and let the cap fall onto the sterile blue wrapping.

10. Squeeze the clamp closed on the catheter of the vacuum bottle and place the access tip on the sterile blue wrapping.

11. Remove the valve cap from catheter attached to your body and clean tip with alcohol swab.   Do not let anything touch valve after cleaning with alcohol swab.

12. Insert the access tip of the vacuum bottle into the catheter valve until you hear a click.  When you hear the click the access tip in completely attached.

13. Remove the protective shield from the neck of the vacuum bottle and push down the “T” plunger.

14. Undo the clamp to allow the fluid to drain into the bottle. 

15. Once the bottle is full or there is no more fluid draining into the bottle, clamp the catheter tubing.  If you need to attach another vacuum bottle to drain more fluid remove the first bottle and repeat steps 10- 14.  Remember- only drain 1000ml (or 2 bottles) of fluid from the chest at a time or 2000ml (or 4 bottles) of fluid from the abdomen at a time.

16. Remove access tip from valve.

17. Clean the valve opening with a new alcohol swab.  Place new valve cap on the end of the catheter and twist until it snaps locking the cap into position.

 18. Clean the skin around the catheter with a new alcohol swab. 

19. Place foam catheter pad on the skin around the catheter entrance site.

20. Coil catheter tubing and place on foam pad.

21. Cover with gauze from kit and apply self-adhesive dressing over gauze.

22. On vacuum bottle, push “T” plunger down and in circular motion to further puncture foil seal.

23. Remove rubber plastic cap from vacuum bottle and pour fluid into toilet and flush.

24. Place bottle in plastic bag and discard.

(PleurX drainage kit, 2010).

What is the purpose of this educational blog?

This blog is designed as an electronic source of education regarding the PleurX catheter system.  Your physician or healthcare provider should have already shown you how to care for your pleurX catheter and if you have any questions or concerns you should contact them directly.

Who can learn from this blog?

Anyone can use this blog for education on the use of a PleurX catheter including patients, family members, and healthcare workers.

Why a blog?

A blog can be utilized by many different people and access is not limited to only certain users.  Blogs are used as a form of sharing information of interest or educational information that the author finds useful or meaningful. 

Is there something out there better than a blog?

Maybe.  But for those who prefer to use electronic sources for information and appreciate others points-of-view and helpful tips, blogs are a great resource to utilize.  However, this is only to be used as a resource after your physician or healthcare provider has discussed your PleurX catheter with you.

(Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals, 2009)


Hebda, T., Czar, P., Mascara, C. (2009). Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals (4rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.   

PleurX drainage kit. (2010). Care Infusion Corporation. Retrieved July 5, 2011, from

(2008). PleurX drainage kit: Frequently asked questions [phamplet]. McGaw Park, Illinois, Cardinal Health, Inc.