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Suctioning Your Tracheostomy

Call 911 right away if you ever have trouble breathing.

Suctioning keeps your trach tube clear of excess mucus. Suction as instructed by your healthcare provider. Follow these guidelines and any others you’re given.

1. Collect your supplies

  • Find a clean, well-lighted space near a sink and mirror. Collect your supplies: a suction machine, a clean suction catheter, and a small bowl of distilled water.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Then, put on clean, disposable, powderless gloves.

2. Prepare to suction

  • Turn on the suction machine to _________  mm Hg.

  • Attach the suction catheter to the suction machine. Dip the catheter tip into the distilled water to assure the suction is working.

  • Do the following only if your healthcare provider tells you to: Put a small amount of sterile saline solution into your trach tube. This will help loosen mucus.

Closeup of woman's neck and chest showing suction tube inserted in trach tube. One hand is holding suction tube in place. Other hand is using suction valve.
To apply suction, cover and uncover the suction valve on the catheter.
3. Insert the catheter

  • Take a few deep breaths to fill your lungs with oxygen.

  • Gently insert the catheter into your trach tube. While you insert the catheter, do not suction. Stop inserting the catheter when you start to cough.

4.  Apply suction

  • Apply suction. At the same time, slowly pull the catheter out of your trach tube. Move the catheter tip in a circle as you pull the catheter out.

  • The catheter should be out of your trach tube within 5 to 10 seconds. If you need to suction more, relax and breathe for a few minutes before you start again.

  • When you have finished suctioning, turn off the suction machine. Discard the used catheter, water, and gloves.

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