Download Tracheostomy Suction information sheet
Goal: to keep the tracheostomy tube free of thick mucus and secretions. Suctioning the tracheostomy tube removes mucus and secretions that are not able to be cleared by coughing.
Humidification and adequate fluids help maintain thinner secretions that are easily coughed and cleared from the tracheostomy tube or removed with suction
Suctioning removes mucus from the windpipe so that the windpipe stays clear. This should be done every morning, at bedtime, and as needed. For the first few days after surgery, your child may need to be suctioned a lot. By the time your child is ready to go home he or she will need less suctioning.
Helpful hints: The pulse oximeter that reads your child’s oxygen level will make a loud noise (alarm) when mucus blocks the windpipes and prevents air from moving in and out of the tracheostomy tube. But do NOT depend on on alarms. Always look at your child for signs of difficulty breathing.
Single use catheters are often used in the hospital for suctioning, and come in a sterile package with a suction catheter, gloves, and a small basin for water. Single use catheters can only be used once and then thrown away.
Closed system catheters are contained in a sheath to keep them clean, and can be used more than one time. Closed system catheters can be used for 24 hours.
Depending on your insurance, you will be using one of these types of suction catheters at home.
Pay attention to the color and/or smell of your child’s mucus because it could be giving you clues:
Call the doctor for a visit if your child looks ill, or if mucus is particularly foul smelling.
Helpful hints: Suction only as you pull the suction catheter back out of the tracheostomy tube. Keep suction times shorter than 10 seconds. Don’t forget that during suctioning, you are suctioning out air as well as mucus. Allow your child to rest in between each pass with the suction catheter. Use normal saline only if mucus is very thick.
During an emergency, or when suction is not available, the mucus trap can be used.
Carry the mucus trap with you when you leave home.
In an emergency, hold the mucus trap upright, and place your mouth securely around the mouthpiece. Suck in to create suction as you gently pull the catheter out. The mucus will not enter your mouth, but will drop into the bottle.