Suctioning is a critical component of airway management and intervention for patients who cannot clear their own airways due to obstruction or excessive secretions.
Suctioning involves using specialized equipment to remove mucus, saliva, blood, vomit, and other debris from the patient’s airway. This helps to ensure that the patient can breathe more easily and safely.
Equipment: The most common type of suctioning device is a suction catheter. This device comprises a flexible tube with an attached handle and suction port. The catheter is inserted into the patient’s mouth or nose and then connected to a vacuum source (such as an aspirator) which creates negative pressure to draw out any obstructive material from the airway. The catheter should be lubricated before insertion to reduce discomfort for the patient.
In addition to suction catheters, other types of suction devices are available such as Yankauer tips, rigid endoscopes, and laryngoscope blades. These devices are used when more precise control over the amount of suction needed is required or when access to deeper parts of the airway is necessary (e.g., during intubation).
Intervention: When performing suctioning on a patient, proper technique must be followed to minimize trauma and discomfort for the patient and reduce the risk of infection or aspiration pneumonia. Proper technique includes:
Using sterile gloves and lubricating gel on all surfaces that will come into contact with mucous membranes
American Heart Association (2020). Basic Life Support Provider Manual: Suctioning Guidelines [PDF]. Retrieved from https://cpr.heart.org/idc/groups/ahaecc-public/@wcm/@ecc/documents/downloadable/ucm_491220.pdf