What is a Suction Tube?

Mary McMahon

A suction tube is a medical device which provides suction by being attached to a suction machine. Suction can be used to clear liquids and slurries away from an area of concern, and it is utilized in many different aspects of medical care. Suction devices are commonly found on ambulances, in hospital rooms, in emergency rooms, and in clinics, with attachable tubing and tips for various applications. Like other medical devices, the suction machine is designed with replaceable tubing and tips which can be changed between patients to limit the spread of disease.

Most ambulance workers will have suction devices available to them if they need it.
Most ambulance workers will have suction devices available to them if they need it.

One classic use of suction is in dentistry. While dental work is being performed, someone's mouth can fill with blood and saliva. This poses a risk to the patient, as it may occlude the airway, and it also makes it hard for the dentist to see and work. The suction tube is used to periodically clear the mouth, essentially vacuuming up the excess liquid to clear the area. It can be used by the dentist or by an assistant who provides suction by request or when needed.

During liposuction procedures, a specialized suction tube is used to pull fat cells out of the body.
During liposuction procedures, a specialized suction tube is used to pull fat cells out of the body.

In surgery, suction tubes are also used to clear the surgical field. Blood can fill the field, making it difficult for the surgeon to see and complicating the field. Other fluids like mucus and pus can also impede clear vision of the surgical site. In liposuction procedures, a specialized suction tube is used to pull fat cells out of the body, and the suction tube is also used in neurosurgery, where it removes excess liquid and relieves pressure on the skull.

Suction tubes are most well-known thanks to their use in dental procedures.
Suction tubes are most well-known thanks to their use in dental procedures.

Suction can also be used in the care of patients who are spending time in the hospital for respiratory conditions. Many of these patients require airway suctioning to remove mucus. The suction tube will increase patient comfort, reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia, and keep the lungs clear so that the patient can breathe. Suctioning is also used when a patient is near death to reduce the sound of the distinctive “death rattle,” as this sound can be disconcerting for family members.

A suction tube can eliminate fluids that cause the death rattle sound.
A suction tube can eliminate fluids that cause the death rattle sound.

The tips on a suction tube can be changed for different applications. Bent and straight tips are available, along with tips of various widths and designs. Some are made from metal, designed for sterilization and reuse, while others are made from plastics, in which case they are disposable and discarded after use so that organisms are not passed between patients.

Airway suctioning may help prevent complications such as pneumonia.
Airway suctioning may help prevent complications such as pneumonia.
In some medical conditions, a tube is used to suction contents of the stomach.
In some medical conditions, a tube is used to suction contents of the stomach.
A suction tube may be used by a dental assistant to provide suction by request or when needed.
A suction tube may be used by a dental assistant to provide suction by request or when needed.

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Discussion Comments

backdraft

Am I right in assuming that during complicated surgical procedures there are nurses whose only job it is to perform suction? This seems like it would be a constant problem over the course of a long procedure and there is probably not any room for the kinds of errors that can result from not being able to see clearly. What a strange job that would be.

Ivan83

The first thing I though of was the suction tube that they place in your mouth at the dentists office to soak up excess saliva as they work on your teeth.

I was always kind of put off by this bizarre apparatus. I don't like the way it sucks on your gums and makes the cold wind blown feeling in your mouth. But I guess it is a small price to pay to not be slobbering all over yourself in the dentists chair.

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