The Dangers of Oropharyngeal Suctioning

Anybody working in affected person care is aware of how essential oropharyngeal suctioning is to sustaining airway patency. Not solely does it take away bodily fluids (blood, mucus, saliva, and vomit) from the airway, but it surely additionally permits visualization of the vocal cords throughout intubation—an important step in establishing a complicated airway.

Like several remedy you render, whether or not within the prehospital or hospital setting, there are risks inherent to oropharyngeal suctioning. Fortuitously, with pre-planning and a cautious strategy, these risks might be minimized and even eradicated. Let’s discover a number of of the risks of oropharyngeal suctioning, and how one can keep away from these pitfalls. 


Does the Affected person Want Suction?

Earlier than suctioning your affected person, you have to first decide the necessity. A cursory look at your affected person can typically point out the want for suction, however you might have to do an evaluation to make sure. Listed here are some indicators that your affected person may have suctioning:


  • Elevated problem respiratory
  • Nasal flaring
  • Use of accent muscular tissues
  • Irregular positioning, like tripod or the shortcoming to put flat
  • Irregular respiratory patterns
  • Proof of a partial or full obstruction
  • Extreme secretions

Any of the above may point out that your affected person requires oropharyngeal suctioning, so make sure you embrace moveable suction in your regular ALS tools lineup.


All the pieces you could know to assist your establishment make the precise moveable suction buy >


Suggestions for Suctioning

In the event you’ve decided your affected person wants suctioning, listed below are just a few tricks to bear in mind:


  • Place the affected person ready of consolation, when attainable. In circumstances of suspected spinal trauma, elevate the pinnacle of the backboard (if not contraindicated) to help in fluid elimination.
  • Preoxygenate the Affected person. The best hazard of extended suctioning is hypoxemia. To keep away from this, preoxygenate your affected person with 100% oxygen and restrict suction time to below ten seconds. Your purpose is to keep up an SpO2 at or above 95 p.c.
  • Method is vital; use care when guiding the suction catheter to keep away from traumatizing oral tissues. That is particularly essential in trauma, the place the affected person could have free tooth that may turn into obstructions. Do not forget that tracheal irritation can result in vagal stimulation, which can lead to bradycardia and hypotension. Use the suitable measurement catheter for max effectivity.
  • Take further care with unconscious sufferers. Open the airway utilizing the suitable methodology (jaw thrust in suspected trauma) and pre-oxygenate it by bagging for one-to-two minutes utilizing 100% oxygen.

Suctioning the Tube

Having an endotracheal tube in place doesn’t essentially preclude the necessity for suction. When your affected person’s situation requires suctioning the endotracheal tube, make sure you:


  • Use a small, versatile French catheter.
  • Put together and assemble your tools.
  • Preserve common precautions and use a sterile method.
  • Lubricate the suction catheter.
  • Preoxygenate the affected person.
  • Measure the suction catheter tip from the nook of the mouth to the angle of the jaw, or insert into the endotracheal tube till the affected person coughs.
  • Utilizing a twisting movement, apply suction as you take away the suction catheter.
  • Suction for not than 10 seconds.
  • Monitor the affected person through pulse oximetry, capnography, and important indicators.
  • Frequently reassess the airway, endotracheal tube, and lung sounds.
  • Pre-oxygenate your affected person in-between every suction process.

Particular Populations

Some sufferers require extra warning throughout oropharyngeal suctioning. Listed here are some essential suggestions to remember. 


Geriatric Sufferers

One group that will require particular concerns when suctioning is geriatric sufferers. To keep away from issues:

  • Be alert for dentures or different dental gadgets when managing the airway.
  • Eradicating dentures could make intubation simpler, however could complicate masks seal.
  • Damaged tooth are more likely to turn into obstructions.
  • Aspiration is at all times a hazard in case your affected person has a diminished cough reflex.
  • Chest wall stiffness could result in diminished tidal quantity.
  • Kyphosis could complicate affected person positioning; use further padding when wanted.
  • Nasal tissues are extra fragile, particularly for sufferers on anticoagulants.
  • Hypoxia can progress, even in minor chest harm, so frequently reassess.
  • Older sufferers could rely extra on diaphragmatic tour, so don’t impede the stomach when securing your affected person on a backboard.

Pediatric Sufferers

Pediatric sufferers might also face particular risks throughout oropharyngeal suctioning. Since kids are unable to speak their situations as successfully as adults, be alert for indicators of respiratory misery, similar to:


  • Fast or labored respiratory
  • Nasal flaring
  • Use of accent muscular tissues
  • Grunting
  • Wheezing
  • Irregular breath sounds
  • Retractions
  • Positioning (tripod)
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Exhaustion


Suctioning newborns and infants requires an particularly delicate contact. They’re usually obligate nostril breathers, so don’t neglect to suction the nasal passageways when treating the very younger. Beneath are another finest practices:


  • Suction babies or infants utilizing a versatile catheter.
  • Suction the mouth first, then the nostril.
  • Advance the catheter till the tip contacts secretions.
  • Block the facet port along with your thumb and use a twisting movement as you withdraw the catheter.
  • Don’t suction past your direct imaginative and prescient to keep away from gagging, vomiting, or aspiration.
  • Insert the catheter into the nostril and observe the identical method by making use of suction and eradicating with a twisting movement.

Look ahead to Hazard Indicators

As you assess and reassess your affected person throughout and between suctioning, keep alert for indicators of bother, which can embrace:


  • Hypoxemia
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Airway trauma with related bleeding
  • Elevated intracranial strain
  • Buildup of mucus plugs

Though there are risks to oropharyngeal suctioning, the advantages far outweigh the dangers. You may decrease or eradicate the risks by using a considerate, cautious strategy.


Editor’s Word: This weblog was initially printed in March of 2018. It has been re-published with extra updated content material.


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