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What is oral suction?

Oral suction is used when someone has particularly low oxygen levels within the blood caused by loose secretions (phlegm) obstructing the upper airways. It is only carried out if the person is unable to move the secretions themselves via coughing. This inability to clear secretions may be due to:

Improving lung function and exercise tolerance through exercise supervised by a specilaist physiotherapistAbove: Improving lung function and exercise tolerance through exercise supervised by a specilaist physiotherapist

There are two different devices used for oral suction in order to remove the secretions in the airways:
  • Suction catheter - passed into mouth and down throat in order to suck out secretions that are causing obstruction in airways. Lubrication may be used to decrease discomfort.
  • Yankauer – used within the mouth to remove any secretions in order to prevent aspiration (the secretions slipping back down the trachea and into the lungs)
Your respiratory physiotherapist will be able to determine the presence of troublesome secretions in the airways by auscultation (listening to your chest) and observing your vital signs (oxygen saturations, heart rate).

Oral suction is often used in combination with manual chest physiotherapy techniques (such as vibrations). Occasionally, oral suction will be used to attain a secretion sample for analysis; however, suction is only used when:
  • Secretions are known to be present
  • Secretions are accessible by catheter
  • Secretions are proving detrimental to patients respiratory function
  • Secretions are causing the patient distress
  • The patient is unable to clear the secretions independently by any other means

What are the benefits of oral suction?

By removing the obstructing secretions, this opens the airways up allowing more effective ventilation (gas exchange), meaning oxygen levels return to normal. For the patient this means:
  • Breathing becomes easier
  • Reduced breathlessness
  • Ability to do more

Who would benefit from oral suction?

For oral suction to be effective, secretions must be far enough up the airway to be reached by the suction catheter or Yankauer, and must be loose (thin) enough to be able to fit into the tube.

People with a respiratory condition in which secretions are affecting their breathing would benefit from oral suction. Oral suction is only used in people whom are unable to clear secretions by themselves through coughing.

An inability to clear secretions could be due to: For a full respiratory assessment, or to find out if you could benefit from physiotherapy to help you manage your respiratory condition, please contact us today by calling on 0330 088 7800. You can also book appointments online using our online booking system

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