Patients with a Damaged Airway: What You Need to Know


A variety of obstacles can make suctioning an airway difficult during an emergency or before an intubation procedure — not the least of which is damage to the upper chest or trachea. 


These types of injuries, whether they are caused by trauma or an existing disorder, have direct implications on the effectiveness of suctioning, which is why understanding how to assess and safely treat them is important for anyone providing care. Read on for a breakdown of tracheal injuries, their effects and best practices.


Tracheal ruptures


Tracheal ruptures are tears or breaks in the windpipe (similarly, bronchial ruptures are tears or breaks in the bronchial tubes connecting the windpipe to the lungs). This can not only be painful, but it can also cause emergency responders to have difficulty clearing an airway. Some of the causes of these tears include:


  • Infections
  • Sores due to foreign objects entering the windpipe or large, sharp pieces of food
  • Blunt force trauma due to gunshot wounds, car accidents, etc.


These causes can lead to coughing up blood or other secretions, which, in turn, will require the use of suctioning devices.


Overall, tracheal damage can occur in a wide variety of ways, including from long-term respiratory diseases, accidents during surgery, or extended use of a breathing tube or tracheostomy.


Bronchial disorders


Having a bronchial disorder can leave you at a predisposition to a damaged or blocked airway and, therefore, can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to being administered proper suctioning. These disorders include:



Best practices


Knowing how to properly suction a damaged airway is essential to ensuring the safety of patients. Practice makes perfect and suctioning techniques can always be improved. SSCOR’s tips for how to improve your suctioning skills include:


  • Monitoring your patient and the damages to their airway before, during and after suctioning is key.
  • Only suction the patient when necessary. Suctioning shouldn’t be part of the respiratory routine — only when secretions or other blockages occur due to damage.
  • Don’t suction for longer than 15 seconds to reduce the risk of damaging the airway further or other complications that may occur.
  • Be sure that your suctioning device is set to the correct negative pressure before you begin suctioning the patient’s injured airway.
  • Suctioning should only occur when the catheter is being removed, not while being inserted. 
  • Adults experiencing a damaged airway blockage should receive 100% oxygen before and after suctioning.


Devices for a damaged airway


SSCOR has a variety of devices that make suctioning a damaged airway easier and safer. With the obstacles that can arise with respiratory injuries, a reliable airway clearing device is essential to ensure a patient’s safety. Some of these devices include:


  • SSCOR HI-D The "Big Stick'' Suction Tip: This device has a suction tip with an inner diameter twice as large as traditional surgical suction tips. A bigger diameter can be of use in a situation where a patient has major damages to their windpipe, compared to a normal surgical tip.
  • SSCOR VX-2 -  The vacuum level of this powerful, full featured suction device can be adjusted to any negative pressure between <-50mmHg and > -550mmHg, providing the caregiver with what ever level of vacuum is appropriate for the patient’s condition


Damage to a patient’s airway can be a catalyst for issues that require proper suctioning. Don’t find yourself in a situation without the proper tools to save a patient’s life — be proactive and arm yourself with SSCOR’s devices.


SSCOR VX-2 Portable and Onboard Suction