The right portable suction machine is an integral part of patient care. Those charged with hospital purchasing are well aware of the role of wall-mounted and non-portable suction in patient wellness, but they may not consider the importance of portable suction. Before you make this essential purchase, here are five facts you need to know about portable suction.


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Portable suction is a key component of compliance.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds to provide stabilizing treatment to emergency patients and women in labor. The mandate extends beyond hospital walls to a 250-yard radius around the hospital. So a neonate born in the parking lot, a choking child in a car, and an aspirated patient entering the emergency room are all entitled to care.

A portable suction machine ensures that you can quickly access and care for patients, wherever they are on your hospital’s campus. Not only will this save lives, but it will also ensure that you don’t run afoul of the law. 


Suction is a common, daily need.

Portable suction is part of your hospital’s basic, daily scope of care—no matter which patient populations you serve or what sort of care is your specialty. Some common uses for suction include:


  • Protecting the airway during surgery. This is especially important in emergency patients, who are at an increased risk of aspiration.
  • Clearing the airway in neonates. Aspiration is common among newborns. It can be deadly when a baby aspirates meconium. Prompt suctioning with an appropriately sized catheter may be life-saving.
  • Treating aspiration and choking. About 5,000 people die from choking each year. Hospitalized patients face an increased risk of aspiration. Portable suction can prevent an accident from turning into a tragedy.
  • Caring for people with respiratory disorders and infections. Suction is critical for people with pneumonia, COPD, and other respiratory disorders. It is especially vital in populations with limited mobility and poor muscle tone, such as those with spinal cord or brain injuries, advanced dementia, and conditions that require the use of a ventilator.

Portable suction offers greater flexibility.

Portable suction ensures that patients on every floor of the hospital and at every stage of care can be saved from an airway emergency. Consider the following uses for a portable unit:


  • On crash carts, especially in waiting areas or rooms that do not offer wall-mounted suction.
  • When transporting patients from one wing to another, to surgical suites, or to discharge areas.
  • During discharge or check-in, when patients with airway emergencies may require rapid suctioning.
  • In tactical and disaster-preparedness bags, which are used during mass shootings, natural disasters, and other situations that might necessitate caring for patients in an alternative setting, such as the parking lot or a waiting room.

Suction is more than just the suction machine.

While the right suction machine can make or break your emergency response, a quality machine alone is insufficient. You also need the right accessories, including catheters in a range of sizes. What works well for an adult can be dangerous for a neonate with a smaller, more delicate airway. So treat accessories as a part of your portable suction kit, and store a variety of disposables in a range of sizes with the machine.


New: Ultimate Guide To Purchasing A Portable Emergency Suction Device


The machine you choose can affect patient care.

Selecting a suction machine for your hospital is more than just a purchasing decision that compares one brand to another. Your choice of machine can have potentially serious and far-reaching consequences for your patients. As you explore your options, consider these factors:


  • Battery life and charging time. A machine that loses suction or that has a very short battery life can lose power when lives depend on it.
  • Compatibility with accessories and disposables. Select a machine that is compatible with the accessories you already have.
  • Suction power and flow. The machine should be easy to adjust, so you can serve all patients—from neonates to geriatric patients.
  • Maintenance and warranty. A machine with a weak warranty may constantly break or become a financial drain. Choose a machine made by a company with a robust warranty and an easy maintenance plan.

SSCOR believes every patient deserves quality, life-saving care and that every healthcare provider should be empowered to offer this care. For our advice on purchasing a portable suction machine, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.


Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in August 2018. It has been re-published with additional up-to-date content.