Motion scene of patient being moved in a hospital


When we think of portable suction units, we typically picture the prehospital scenario: working a cardiac arrest poolside, managing the unresponsive patient at a nursing home, or treating the trauma patient trapped in a vehicle. But portable suction plays a vital role within the hospital setting. Let's review some of the strategies that should be employed when making strategic decisions about portable suction for hospitals.



When it comes to portable suction strategy in hospitals, decisions are typically made by consensus. Here is a list of questions about your facility that can help identify your needs:


  • How many beds in your facility?
  • Does each room have a wall-mounted unit?
  • How many crash carts are there in your facility?
  • Does your facility transport patients between units?
  • How many intubated patients do you average each year?


These questions can help establish the number of units your facility may require.



Perhaps your facility already has the requisite number of portable suction units, but they are old or malfunctioning. Here are a few indications that it might be time to replace your units:


  • Batteries will not hold their charge.
  • Batteries are damaged and are no longer available for purchase.
  • Units are ineffective and only provide weak suction.
  • Units are cumbersome and difficult to transport.
  • Units do not provide adjustable pressure for special patients (elderly and pediatrics).
  • Mechanics are outdated and cannot be maintained.
  • Parts are broken; cords are frayed.



An important aspect in hospital portable suction strategy is planning for disasters. Disasters, whether they are natural (hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods) or man-made (mass casualty incidents resulting from terrorism or active shooter scenarios), occur at any time, in any place, so be sure your facility is ready. And when it comes to portable suction unit needs, here are a few considerations:


  • Have plenty of backup units available.
  • Ensure your units have power—either alkaline batteries or alternative power sources.
  • Identify their locations—so everyone knows where they are, in the event of a disaster.
  • Include them with your portable ALS equipment.
  • Have an assortment of accessories on hand (catheters, tubing, extra canisters).
  • Keep plenty of extra batteries on hand.



A key strategy in portable suction units for hospitals is educating personnel. Some personnel may rarely use the suction unit, which can lead to ineffective suctioning and can harm the patient. Here are several important reminders when reviewing suction procedures:


  • Use the appropriate-sized suction catheter—too small or too large will lead to ineffective suctioning.
  • Practice good hygiene—use PPE when suctioning and clean the unit after each use.
  • Never suction longer than 10 seconds—it can lead to hypoxia in your patient.
  • Suction with care—avoid overaggressive suctioning, which can lead to trauma and hypoxia.
  • Watch for obstructions. Take care with patients who have dental hardware or loose teeth—they can easily become obstructions.



Portable suction units are useless if not maintained, so be sure your staff understand their role in unit maintenance. This includes:


  • Checking the units at the start of each shift
  • Cleaning the unit after each use, to avoid contaminating patients and staff
  • Replacing low batteries and keeping extras on hand
  • Storing the units in safe areas to avoid damage or exposure to extreme temperatures
  • Following manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance to avoid warranty non-compliance


Portable suction units play a key role within the hospital setting. But they require good strategies for implementation, upkeep, and use. So, invest the necessary time and energy in developing your suction strategy. It will ensure good decisions and best practices.


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