Which Suction Catheter Tip Do You Need?

The right suction catheter can save patients’ lives. The wrong one can cause pharyngeal injuries, reduce suction power, and even increase morbidity and mortality. Whether you’re purchasing suction catheters for portable use in EMS settings, for the hospital, or for a medical clinic, selecting a variety of tips is key. This strategy ensures that providers always have the right suction catheter on hand. Here are some questions to ask before making your next purchase.


Guide: Portable Emergency Suction: A Critial Tool In Avoiding Aspiration  Pneumonia


Who is Our Typical Patient?

Tracheal suction catheters should be less than 50% of the internal diameter of the endotracheal tube. So when investing in suction catheters, it’s important to take into account the size of the average patient. Pediatric hospitals that work primarily or exclusively with children need small catheters; labor and delivery units that treat neonates need even smaller suction catheters. Agencies working with elderly populations may also need small catheters. Some geriatric people experience tracheal stenosis, necessitating a smaller catheter than their size might suggest.


What Are Our Most Prevalent Suction Needs?

Every agency services a slightly different population. What are the most common suction needs your typical patient faces? Agencies that must routinely administer oropharyngeal suction during resuscitation may need an anatomically curved, large-bore catheter that can continually clear the airway. Our DuCanto catheter was specifically designed for the SALAD technique of suctioning during resuscitation in patients whose airways are contaminated with vomit or blood.


Focus your purchasing decisions on the typical patient you see. You’ll need to buy other suction catheters, too, but having many on hand that can serve your ideal patient is key to prompt service delivery.


Which Suction Catheters Are Compatible With Our Current Units?

If an EMS professional has to rifle through a bag of useless and incompatible catheters before finding the right one, patients can suffer serious negative outcomes. Ensure that you only purchase catheters that are compatible with units currently in use. Then get rid of or store any outdated catheters. This prescription is also key for purchasing new suction units. Select a portable suction device that’s compatible with what you already have, and you’ll save time and money.


Disposable or Multi-Use?

Closed suction catheters are multi-use catheters, such as those often used on patients on ventilators. Almost all agencies need a mix of disposable open suction catheters and multi-use closed suction catheters. The appropriate proportion of each depends on the type of patients you see, and for which issues.


  • Closed suctioning is advised for intubated neonates and patients receiving high volumes of PEEP or Fi02. It may also be used in some other hospital settings.
  • Open suctioning is more prevalent in EMS settings, where an EMS provider must rapidly use open suctioning to clear the airway.


Remember: Disposable suction catheters must never be reused, even on the same patient. Consider this when deciding how many to purchase. You may need more disposables than you realize.


New: Free Emergency Aspirator Purchasing Guide for Hospitals


What Do Our Providers Prefer?

Some providers become accustomed to specific brands or styles of suction catheters. Even when a variety of catheters might be appropriate, the provider can grow dependent on certain tactile features. They may want a specific level of flexibility or rigidity, with no deviation.


These provider preferences are not trivial. While it’s important that providers are trained to use a variety of suction catheters, it’s equally important to ask about their preferences. Providers work better when they use equipment that’s familiar. So if you switch to a new suction catheter, be sure to give providers time to train with it before they use it in the field. If providers are adamant that they want to stick with the old equipment, find ways to balance that desire with other agency goals.


Quality suction catheters demand a quality portable suction device. SSCOR offers portable suction for doctors, dentists, EMS providers, and more. To learn more about your options, and for help assessing your portable suction needs, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.


Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in August 2018. It has been re-published with additional up-to-date content.