For some people, keeping the airway clean and clear requires a suction unit and suction catheters. This equipment can help you remove secretions like mucous and prevent them from becoming a serious obstruction. If food, drinks, or mucous in the mouth enter the lower airway and then the lungs, serious issues like aspiration pneumonia can result.
Our bodies normally protect our airways very well — think about a time you swallowed something that got into your airway instead of your esophagus. A strong cough most likely helped you clear it. When your body can no longer perform that function, it’s vital to have a mechanical means of clearing the airway. We carry suction equipment from reputable manufacturers to help you keep your airway or that of a loved one clear and functional.
The Purpose of Suction Equipment
The primary purpose of suction equipment is to prevent aspiration in people with a risk of material buildup in the airway. Aspiration occurs when a substance is accidentally inhaled, and it can lead to aspiration pneumonia. Material buildup might include mucous and foreign materials like vomit or gastric secretions that cannot be cleared by gravity or muscular movement alone. Some examples of patients who may need the help of suction equipment include people who:
- Have had a stroke.
- May not be fully aware.
- Have facial injuries.
- Have trouble swallowing completely or clearing coughs due to muscle weakness.
Suction supplies are usually ordered by a physician and used by caretakers to clear the patient’s airway as needed.
How Suction Equipment Is Used
Suction equipment consists of a suction machine and either a soft suction catheter or a hard plastic wand. The hard wand can be easier to use and offer faster cleaning. For some people, the soft suction catheter is more appropriate — this option is typically used if the patient tends to bite down or needs to clear materials further down the back of the throat (oropharynx).
A suction machine is only turned on during use — usually just a few minutes. Some patients may only need to use an oral suction device occasionally, while others will need to use it several times a day. Regardless of use frequency, it’s essential to have the equipment ready to go so you can quickly clear out the airway and prevent aspiration at a moment’s notice.
It’s crucial to practice hygienic behaviors when suctioning. Fortunately, the process of using and cleaning the equipment is fairly straightforward:
- Hand-washing and gloves: Many caregivers like to use gloves as a barrier between their hands and the secretions. Whether gloves are used or not, basic hand-washing with soap and water is necessary before and after suctioning.
- Components: After using the suction equipment, secretions go into a collection jar that can easily be disconnected, cleaned, and reassembled. Suction wands and catheters can be cleaned with standard dish detergent, rinsed, and stored in a container until their next use.