Anyone in the medical field can attest to the importance of suction. How else could we clear a patient’s airway were it not for the use of suction? When you think of all the arenas in which suction is used—throughout hospitals, in the prehospital setting, and just about any place treatment is provided—it’s impossible to imagine patient care without it.
But the role of suction, and especially the portable suction unit, must be suited for its intended use. Fortunately, there are portable suction units available that are specifically designed for certain settings. Let’s discuss several of them now.
When you think of suction in the hospital setting, you probably envision wall-mounted ports that are piped into the main architecture of the building. These are typically located in patient rooms, emergency departments, and surgical wards. But portable suction units also play a critical role within the hospital setting. They can be found in the following locations:
- On crash carts
- Near exits
- In strategic locations on each floor
- During patient transport between departments
Choosing the appropriate portable suction unit for your hospital requires identifying the number of units needed and the preferable power source for each unit and training staff and personnel on their operation and use. The best decisions are made by consensus, so engage individuals from different areas of the hospital so that a variety of views are represented.
Choosing a portable suction unit for prehospital use depends upon several factors. They include:
- The size of the department/number of units needed
- Cost of each unit
- The type of power utilized—either rechargeable or alkaline batteries
- Special populations serviced—geriatric and pediatric patients will benefit from units that provide adjustable pressure settings
- Ruggedness—because many emergencies take place out of doors
- Lightweight—units that can be easily stowed in an airway or trauma bag
- Easy to maintain—with disposable parts and accessories to avoid cross-contamination of patients
Just as in the hospital setting, it is best to gather opinions, based on personal experience, to ensure your agency’s needs are met. So, form a committee when it’s time to decide on new portable suction units.
Disasters come in many forms, from natural events like hurricanes and floods to man-made incidents like mass shootings and explosions. And any incident involving mass casualties will require a large number of portable suction units. Aside from the number of units needed, you will also have to consider the power source, because there may be little to no electricity available in the event of a disaster. Portable suction units that rely on alkaline batteries or alternative power sources are perfect for these situations. Extra batteries should be kept in reserve and can be rapidly replaced under any conditions.
Tactical medicine has become an emerging trend in EMS, with more agencies partnering with law enforcement to respond to critical incidents. When choosing a portable suction unit for your tactical gear, select one that is small and lightweight yet rugged enough to withstand the rigors of tactical response. It should be run off replaceable alkaline batteries so that you never have to worry about power in the field.
When selecting your portable suction unit, be sure to include plenty of accessories.
A selection of catheters ensures you will always have the appropriate tool on hand, no matter the suction scenario. Extra tubing and canisters are also a must, as are replacement batteries. Make sure your units are properly outfitted, with plenty of backups on hand.
Selecting a portable suction unit for your agency requires careful research and planning. Form a committee with your peers so that a range of opinions can be heard. And research the brand to ensure service, reliability, and, above all, quality.