Airway suctioning can save lives, support recovery from chronic illnesses, and improve outcomes in ICU patients. Proper airway suctioning is key to preventing infections in patients who cannot clear their own airway, as well as in those who are experiencing certain medical emergencies. But reckless approaches to suctioning and inadequate infection prevention protocols can introduce new dangers, putting vulnerable patients in greater peril. Here’s what you need to know about preventing lung infections via airway suction.
Clearing Airway Secretions to Prevent Lung Infections
Patients with infections often produce more mucus, thanks to inflammatory and infectious processes. This mucus allows the body to quickly eliminate dangerous microbes and other contaminants. However, when a patient has a severe infection or a chronic underlying illness, they may not be able to clear their own airway. Clearing the airway of a patient who cannot clear their own secretions helps remove potentially infectious microbes.
Preventing and Reducing Aspiration
Though aspiration can block the airway and cause choking, the more significant risk is that a person inhales a large volume of contaminants, causing a dangerous lung infection. Preventing aspiration can eliminate this risk, which is why it is important to maintain a patent airway during surgical procedures and at other times during which a patient may aspirate or struggle to clear their own airway. Even when a patient is actively vomiting or bleeding from their airway, reducing the volume of contaminants they inhale can greatly reduce the risk of serious lung infections.
Suction Assisted Laryngoscopy and Airway Decontamination (SALAD) is highly effective for patients who are actively vomiting or bleeding during resuscitation and intubation. We recommend the DuCanto CatheterⓇ.
Maintaining Clean and Clear Artificial Airways via Airway Suction
An artificial airway cannot cough or otherwise clear itself, so regular cleaning of ventilators is critical to patient safety. Most artificial airways have their own instructions for cleaning, including details about how deeply to penetrate the airway. Follow these instructions, and clean according to either agency guidelines or the manufacturer’s recommendations to reduce the risk of lung infections.
Airway Suction Safety
Though appropriate suctioning can prevent many infections, infection is also a common byproduct of suctioning, especially if a provider rushes or does not follow best practices. A few precautionary measures can prevent lung infections due to airway suctioning. They include:
- Diligent hygiene. Suctioning a patient can inadvertently introduce contaminants from your hands, your skin, or the suction machine into the patient’s respiratory tract if anything the patient comes into contact with is unclean. Wash hands before and after suctioning patients, as well as before and after cleaning any suction machine components.
- Proper machine cleaning. Clean and disinfect the suction machine following the manufacturer’s instructions immediately after use. Never store a dirty machine, or store dirty, used disposable attachments alongside a clean machine.
- Preventing airway trauma. Injuries to the airway provide a prime point of entry for dangerous pathogens. Proper suctioning technique reduces the risk of airway trauma. Never use a one-size-fits-all approach. Changing the catheter size based on the patient’s age, health, and body size can reduce the risk of injuries.
- Proper storage. Store your suction machine and all components in a secure, hygienic location. Leaving the machine out in the ambulance, stashing catheters in an open bag, and other strategies sacrifice patient safety at the altar of convenience.
- Use a closed suction system for endotracheal suctioning whenever possible.
Why the Right Equipment Matters
Portable suction machines empower you to tend to patients wherever you find them, whether they experience breathing difficulties in a hospital parking lot or waiting room, or need emergency care and present transport difficulties. Quality portable devices deliver reliable and consistent suctioning, reducing the risk of serious infections. For help selecting the right option for your agency or healthcare system, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.