Users of battery powered portable suction devices often comment that it “sucks”. This can be interpreted two ways–either negatively or positively. When the negative sentiment applies, there’s no need to despair or throw the unit across the room


There are three ways to increase the performance of your portable suction device to turn that negative into a positive. 
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The first two methods that increase the performance of your battery powered suction device are pure physics and based on Poiseuille’s Equation, the physical law concerning the flow of fluids through a cylindrical tube.

Without getting too technical, this equation simply means that fluid travels more quickly through a tube that has a larger diameter and shorter length than fluid traveling through a longer tube with a smaller diameter. This equation provides two ways to increase the performance of your portable suction device: 

1. Use a shorter, longer diameter patient tube

Typically six feet of patient tubing is used when suctioning a patient. If you are using this longer patient tube, is that amount of length really necessary?

In certain instances when you can bring your portable suction device right to the head of the patient, a shorter tube may be adequate and can increase suction. Patient tubing is available in shorter lengths (3 feet) and this shorter patient tube can be used to more efficiently perform suctioning procedures. 

We conducted an internal comparison test using six-foot patient tubing versus three-foot patient tubing to suction plain yogurt. The three-foot length of patient tubing removed the yogurt 800% faster then the six-foot length of patient tubing. 

Inside diameters of commercially available patient tubes range from 3/16” to 9/32”. Poiseuille informs us that the larger the diameter, the more rapidly fluid will travel through the tube, and therefore, away from the patient. For the most effective suctioning, use patient tubing with the largest inside diameter (9/32”) for your battery powered portable suction device! 

2. Use a larger diameter suction catheter

Now that you have maximized the effectiveness of your patient tubing, why would you settle for a restrictive suction tip? The most popular suction catheters have a very small inside diameter (approximately .14”). These tips are useful when suctioning blood and saliva, however, they are often ineffective when presented with thicker material such as tenacious mucus and vomitus. In fact, the standard suction tip used for oropharyngeal suction is often called a ‘tonsil tip’ because it is used during tonsillectomies where blood and mucus are the only materials encountered. 

There are suction catheters available with larger suction lumens that more closely approximate the internal diameter of the largest patient tubing. Using a suction catheter with a larger inside diameter will increase the performance of your portable suction device. 

In a comparison test we conducted using the ISO standard for vomitus material (water mixed with xanthan gum) and a SSCOR Model 74000 Suction device, the results showed a 13% improvement in suction time using the larger diameter HI‐D suction tip vs. a standard Yankauer suction tip. 

3. Check your battery

The final way to increase the performance of your battery-powered suction device is related to the maintenance and characteristics of batteries. As with all battery-powered devices, a healthy and fully functioning battery is essential for the successful use of your battery-powered portable suction device.

Test your device by determining if the device reaches the maximum negative pressure rating (typically over 525mmHg) using a calibrated test gauge. To determine if your battery has lost capacity and should be replaced:

  • First, charge the device fully.
  • Then, turn on your suction device and allow it to run for approximately 15 minutes.

If the device stops or slows during the 15 minute run, replace the battery with one that is fully charged.

Effective suctioning with the right equipment can have a big impact on patient health and comfort. Make sure you are using your portable battery powered suction machine in the most effective manner possible.

Get the most performance out of your battery powered portable suction device. Learn about SSCOR disposables that can increase the performance of your suction device: SSCOR Disposables.


Editor's note: This blog was originally from October 2015. It has been re-published with additional up to date content.