Care after your Chest tube is Connected to the Atrium 500®
What is the Atrium® 500?
The Atrium 500® is a small portable chest
drainage system that allows you to go home
with a chest tube in place. It allows fluid and
air to escape from your chest until your lung
heals. Simple advice for the care of this is
in this handout.
Chest Tube and Valve Care
ξ You cannot shower when attached to
the mini 500.
ξ Check your chest tube site each day
for signs of infection.
ξ Keep the Atrium 500® upright at all
times and below the level of your
o Use the hanger provided or
use the straps with walking
o If it tips over or is placed on
its side fluid may leak out of
o If it is above the level of the
chest, fluid will not be able to
drain out of the chest
ξ Do not allow it to fully fill with
fluid. This will prevent your lungs
What if the chest tube disconnects from
the Atrium 500®?
If the tube comes off from the Atrium 500®,
you will need to attach it right away. Be
sure to tape it firmly. If you can’t get it back
together, go to the emergency room.
Other things to look at
ξ Make sure the blue clamp on the
tubing is open so that fluid and air
can drain out
ξ If draining fluid, check the amount
of fluid in the container, you do not
want it to get full
ξ Check the insertion site daily for
signs of infection (do this with the
Supplies needed: Two split gauze, two
pieces of standard 4x4 gauze, tape
The chest tube site needs to be washed with
mild soap and water every day. Do not use
soaps with lotion or a heavy scent. This can
bother your skin. If you have a lot of
drainage around the site you may need to do
a dressing change more than once a day.
ξ Lay the split gauze down first against
your skin, placing the slit on each
piece of gauze in opposite directions
so that no skin is seen around the
ξ Next, lay the two pieces of standard
4x4 gauze on top of the split gauze.
ξ Tape down the edges of the gauze
entirely to create a barrier. Tape over
the tube so that it stays in place.
Secure the Atrium 500® with one of the
straps provided. Be sure to place the
secured tube and the Atrium 500® below the
site on your chest. This will allow fluid and
air to escape so that your lungs can stay
The connection between the chest tube and
valve will be secured with a band. Tape or a
Band-Aid may be placed around this band to
protect your skin from its hard edges.
When the atrium 500® gets full
When your chest tube fills to the 400 ml
mark you will be instructed to either 1)
empty the mini 500 or 2) change to a new
atrium 500®. This is decided by your
doctor. Instructions for both ways are
provided on this page and the next page.
Emptying the Atrium Express®
ξ Alcohol Wipes
1. Wash your hands.
2. Alcohol wipe the port at the front of
the atrium 500 for 15 seconds.
3. Screw the newly opened syringe to
4. Pull the plunger back on the syringe
to draw the fluid out.
5. When the syringe is full, empty it
into the toilet.
6. Repeat as needed.
7. Throw the syringe away and wipe
the port off with an alcohol wipe
8. Wash your hands.
9. Write down what day you
emptied the chest tube, how much
you removed, and the color of the
fluid. Your doctor will want to
10. If the fluid becomes hard to draw
out, then call your doctor’s office.
Date Emptied Amount Emptied Color of Fluid
At times the fluid that you are draining out
of your chest may be too thick to remove by
the method stated above. If this is the case,
you may need to change over to a new Mini
500. The steps on page 4 will help you with
Changing to a new atrium 500®
1. Wash your hands
2. Clamp your chest tube
3. Attach the new atrium 500® to your
4. Unclamp your chest tube
5. Wash your hands
6. Keep track of when you changed
your chest tube, how much fluid was
in it, and the color of the fluid
ξ If you have only a chest tube and
valve, you have no lifting
ξ If you have an incision, do not lift
more than 5-10 pounds for 3-4 weeks
after your surgery.
Do not soak in a bathtub, hot tub, or swim
while the chest tube is in place or until
Do not drive if you are taking certain pain
medicines, check with your doctor.
Meet with your doctor each week or every
other week. A chest x-ray will be done
before your visit to see how your lung is
When to Call the Doctor
If you develop sudden or severe shortness
of breath, call 911
ξ The valve comes loose (Attach it
ξ You have a sudden sharp chest pain
with shortness of breath
ξ It is more tender or pain that does not
go away with pain medicine
ξ Signs of infection:
o Increased redness or warmth at
o Pus-like drainage
o Large amounts of swelling or
o Temperature taken by mouth,
greater than 100.4° F for two
readings, 4 hours apart
Surgery Clinic, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (608) 263-7502
After hours, weekends and holidays: (608) 263-6400. This number will reach the paging
operator. Ask for the thoracic surgery resident on call. Leave your name and phone number
with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call: Toll Free: 1-800-323-8942
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6603