Airway management may seem like the exclusive domain of emergency medicine physicians and anesthesiologists. But protecting the airway can be life-saving in a variety of medical contexts. Airway problems can be unpredictable, manifesting quickly and demanding a prompt response. The dentist treating a routine cavity may suddenly find that her patient is having an anaphylactic reaction to latex. Or a pediatrician assessing a child for asthma may have to intervene to stop an intense asthma attack.
Even if you never have to use it, having the right equipment on hand offers significant peace of mind. Train your team to use the equipment as if patients’ lives depend on its proper use—because they do. The right equipment is important, but so is proper training. So plan regular training sessions that mimic the high-stress, high-stakes emergency scenarios your office is most likely to face.
Here are three airway management devices to consider.
1. Wall-Mounted Suction
Wall-mounted suction is usually the first choice for large institutions such as hospitals and surgicenters. Wall-mounted suction can be effective and deliver quality care, but it is rarely the best choice for smaller offices. These units can also be expensive. Moreover, they can only serve patients in a specific area. So if there's a sudden emergency in the waiting room, a child who needs urgent care in the parking lot, or an unanticipated complication during a routine medical procedure, using wall-mounted suction might require moving an unstable patient to another room, wasting precious time.
If you do choose to invest in wall-mounted suction, ensure that there is a unit in each procedure room, and that there’s an emergency suction device available for true emergencies.
2. Manual Suction
Manual suction devices use a pump to generate suction. They work well in a pinch. Perhaps that’s why many smaller medical offices, such as rural primary care providers, choose only to invest in manual suction devices. When nothing else is available, you can make do with such a device, but for most purposes, manual suction is far from adequate. It makes delivering consistent suctioning difficult, especially when multiple patients need care in a short time.
Treat manual suction devices as true backups. In extreme emergencies—such as a natural disaster that forces you to go many days without power and makes it impossible to charge even battery-powered devices—they’re great to have around. (Or, check out the SSCOR D-Cell Suction® that operates on ‘off the shelf’ D-Cell alkaline batteries.) But for everyday use, manual suction units leave much to be desired.
3. Emergency Suction
For almost all medical offices, portable emergency suction is a must-have. These devices can serve patients in emergency scenarios that require prompt care in waiting rooms and parking lots. They’re also an ideal standby for more routine care because you can treat a patient anywhere in the office. Portable emergency suction is more affordable than wall-mounted suction, but delivers the same consistent suction that can prevent emergencies and save lives when emergencies occur.
The Right Accessories
The right suction equipment is a step in the right direction, but you won’t go far without the right accessories. Keep all catheters, tubing, and other accessories in a single accessible location. Ensure that everything is neatly sorted, and dispose of any accessories that do not fit your current equipment. A backup battery is also important if you use portable suction, and doubly important if you ever treat patients in mass casualty or natural disaster scenarios. Schedule a regular inventory of your equipment, and test all of your machines according to the manufacturer-recommended schedule.
The airway management devices you choose can determine how well you treat patients. The right device may even mean the difference between life and death. For help selecting the perfect device for your organization, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.