Suctioning is an important procedure to clear secretions (mucus) from the lungs or airways. If too many secretions are allowed to accumulate, the tube may become clogged and it will be difficult or impossible for the patient to breathe. Oftentimes, patients who are trached do not have an efficient cough to clear secretions. It may be performed as needed depending on the patient’s mucus production. Suctioning is considered a “sterile” procedure and should be performed with this in mind. It is not always possible to maintain sterility in the home, so we ask that you try to be as “clean” as possible when suctioning an airway.
It is important to gather all of your supplies in advance of suctioning or have them ready at all times in case the patient needs to be suctioned in a hurry. Supplies needed are a suction machine with an aspiration container in place (some patients put some betadine in the container to keep the suctioned contents camouflaged and neutralized), a suction catheter, saline or sterile water, the container for saline or water, sterile or clean gloves.
A note about Suction Catheters: they are ordered by your healthcare provider in a certain size (most common is size 14 fr or French). The number refers to the length of the catheter and “Fr or French” refers to the style of the catheter.
Notes: never try to reuse a suction catheter, always maintain as much sterility or cleanliness as possible when performing suctioning. If when suctioning, blood appears, be sure you have not let the cath stick to the mucus membranes of the airway and be sure to be gentle when passing the suction catheter down or up the airway. If you still see blood coming from the airway, this needs to be reported to your physician or healthcare provider.
At first, suctioning may be an awkward procedure, but as it is performed more and more frequently, you will become an expert at suctioning and will know exactly how far the catheter needs to go down the airway to get all of the secretions. As always, when in doubt, contact your MD or healthcare provider.
Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist
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