Medical Suction Devices: Using Them Safely and Effectively

January 8, 2020 | Evaluations & Guidance


Medical suction is essential and used universally across the patient care continuum. Suction consists of evacuating matter from the body that can impair breathing, impede healing, or obscure the surgical site.

We'll discuss the various factors that affect suction, describe the devices used to perform suction, and discuss the parameters and safe levels that should be observed during various types of suctioning procedures. We'll also provide general recommendations for using medical suction devices and list the applicable suction device standards.

  1. Suction, or aspiration, is the application of vacuum or negative pressure to remove gases, liquids, or solids.

  2. Vacuum is defined as pressure less than atmospheric pressure, or less than zero on a pressure gauge. Atmospheric pressure, which is 760 mm Hg at sea level, displays as zero on a conventional pressure gauge.

  3. The amount of vacuum used sets the pressure gradient that will be used to move air, fluid, or secretions. Material will move from an area of higher pressure in the patient to an area of lower pressure in the suction apparatus.

  4. Vacuum within the piped distribution system is usually measured in inches of mercury, whereas for patient care procedures vacuum is generally measured in millimeters of mercury or centimeters of water.

  5. In addition to vacuum, an important dynamic in medical suctioning is the flow rate at which air or liquid is moved through the system from the patient.

  6. Flow rate is primarily...

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