Purchasing any type of new medical equipment is a major decision, and portable medical suction is no exception. There are countless products available, all of which come with different sizes, shapes capabilities, and situation-specific features. So, how do you decide which medical suction device to buy?


It is important to consider your intended end-use to narrow down the required features for a portable suction device. If you need a little guidance, read 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Emergency Portable Suction Device to help you select the right one.


If you decide that you need a small, lightweight model designed to be included in your existing kit, it is useful to understand a few key points.



What You Need to Know

As you evaluate the different options for portable medical suction, there are some key points you should know:



Simply portable versus truly handheld

In the context of medical suction, a portable device is one that is light and small enough to carry to a patient outside of an emergency vehicle. Some are small enough to be contained in an airway bag. But a true handheld device is small enough to hold in the hand, reducing the length of tubing between the patient and the canister from 3 to 6 feet down to a matter of inches. 


Why is this useful? You will generally be suctioning thick viscous fluid that drags against the walls of the connecting tubing. If it only travels 6 inches that drag is minimized and the fluid is cleared far faster. This is a real life example of Poiseuille’s Equation, which states that the speed of a substance passing through a tube is a function of the differential of pressure, the diameter of the tube and the length of the tube, in action. The shorter the tube, the less friction, the faster the fluid will pass.


Of course your training and practice may dictate that you want a small, portable device, but that you want to set it near the patient and utilize a traditional connecting tube and suction tip. In that case, to maximize efficacy, chose the largest bore tube and tip possible (no less than ¼”) and if possible, use a 3 foot tube rather than a 6 foot tube.


Are you looking for a portable model, or one that is truly handheld?



Disposable alkaline versus rechargeable batteries 

What is your preferred power source for the device? If you are going to store your suction unit in a bag, you may find it inconvenient keep it constantly charging, or monitor its state of charge. Disposable alkaline batteries that have a long shelf life and require no recharging may be appropriate for your application.



Battery powered versus manually powered

Manually powered suction devices remove battery maintenance from the equation and are operated by hand. Consider whether all of your staff have the hand strength and stamina to quickly evacuate a messy airway with a manually powered unit and keep it clear. Also consider whether the manual device is effective and gives you the versatility you will want if you must deal with pediatric and / or tracheal suctioning.



After you understand some of these basics, take a closer look at all of your equipment options to evaluate the various features that are most important to you.


If you’re not sure which type of handheld medical suction device makes the most sense for your needs, get in touch with SSCOR today to learn more about our full range of EMS suction products.


Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in May 2015. It has been re-published with additional up to date content.