A suction machine is a type of medical machine/ device used to remove blood, saliva, or other secretions from a patient’s airway (trach tube) so that they can breathe. My suction machine and the one that I will be talking about, is used most commonly to suction out mucus or “goobers” from blocking the inside of my trach tube.
How do you know if you need a Suction?
For me, it’s very noticeable for not only myself but also my parents or people close to me to know when I need a suction. I’m usually in need of one when secretions get too thick or when I am not able to cough them up and it starts to decrease the amount of air supply getting to my lungs. It often causes me to make a bit of a wheezing noise or begin to have very heavy breathes. By getting a suction, it helps me clear the tube so that I can once again breathe easily.
How often do you need a Suction?
It honestly depends on the patient and even for me, it can be very inconsistent. At the beginning, when I first started getting used to the trach, I wasn’t able to cough up any secretions which meant we were suctioning every 10-20 minutes for the entire day! Also, because of all the damage to my throat, I wasn’t able to swallow anything which meant we were orally suctioning saliva as well (typically with a yankauer suction tip). Usually I have more secretions when I am fully dependant on breathing through the trach (the past couple years). Nowadays, since I recently have been capped full time, I barely need any suctions at all. Although sometimes we will take the cap off to give a quick suction through the tube just to make sure it is not clogged in case I need it for an emergency airway.
How is a Suction performed? (a brief explanation)
For starters, you will need to find the right suction catheter that is the right size depending on the trach. The suction catheter connects to the tubing on the suction machine. My suction catheter size is “10 French”. Then depending on the length of the trach (mine is 5cm), that is how deep the suction catheter will go. Do note, it is important not to go too deep (further than the length of the trach) because it can cause irritation and coughing for the patient. You also need to make sure everything is sterile and sanitary when dealing with anything involving trachs. You CANNOT stick a dirty suction catheter down a trach tube and you need to make sure your hands are fully washed or use gloves. After you have the supplies, you will need to. turn the machine on and make sure you are getting a clear suction. You can test this by putting your finger off and on the suction vent connected to the catheter. Then with your hand off the suction vent (so that you are not applying suction), insert the catheter at the right length down the patient’s trach tube. Once you get to the designated length (not too deep but not too short), this is when you will cover the suction vent (so you are now applying suction), and in a circular motion as you pull the catheter slowly out (you should hear a slight noise as the secretions are being suctioned out). Make sure to not keep the catheter suctioning in for too long because it is common for the patient not being able to breathe while it is in, especially if they are trach dependant. From personal experience, it can be difficult to breathe when getting a suction and sometimes nurses not as experienced with trachs have left the catheter in too long which left me gasping for air. Also, you may need to suction more than once. Sometimes the secretions are too thick, it can take multiple consistent suctions to get them out. When I’m at the hospital we use a catheter every time (the used one gets thrown out), whereas at home you can use the catheter more than once (keeping it in a sterile environment and cleaning it with sterile water or sodium chloride).
*** This is just a brief explanation meaning I did not cover every intricate detail. It takes weeks to become trained and my parents took classes at the hospital from the ENT professionals to thoroughly understand how to safely perform a suction.
My thoughts on Suctioning?
When I’m in the hospital, I have a bedside suction machine, but when I’m at home or going out, we carry a portable suction machine which we can access at any time. We have the portable suction machine constantly charging at home and we also have a compact backpack we carry it around in. Every time I leave the house we have to bring it, so it comes with us everywhere in case of an emergency. It is usually more difficult to suction in public because I can get really self conscious about my trach. That became very difficult especially during the first year, when secretions and goobers would constantly block my trach tube which would be blocking my only air supply. When we were able to go out, if I was at some sort of party or at the mall I would always rush to the car to have a suction because I don’t like doing it in front of people. Also, it didn’t help that the machine itself isn’t very quiet, it does have a loud hum kinda like a small motor.
Over the past couple years suctioning is something we had to take very seriously because without the help of the suction machine, I wouldn’t be able to breathe.
I hope you all have a great week! Keep Smiling 🙂 – Zoe