What Is a Vacuum Mattress?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2018
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A vacuum mattress is a type of mattress often used by emergency medical technicians, and it consists of a large airtight bag with a valve. The bag is filled with polystyrene bits, which can conform to a patient's body. When air is vacuumed out of these bags through the valve, the mattress becomes rigid. These mattresses can be easily transported by being strapping them to a gurney, or by using the handles attached to the sides. A vacuum mattress is typically used to transport a patient with a spinal injury.

Vacuum mattresses are very simply constructed. Basically, they are large bags made from very thick, durable plastic. The inside of this bag is filled with small polystyrene beads. A valve is also located on one end of a vacuum mattress, which allows the air inside it to be removed.

Long straps are also attached to the side of a vacuum mattress. These straps enable emergency medical technicians to securely fasten the mattress to a gurney or spine board. Handles are also attached to the sides, and these are often used to transport a patient.

To use a vacuum mattress, a sheet is usually laid on top of a vacuum mattress. The sheet helps protect the mattress from holes, and it is usually much more comfortable for the injured individual. It is also used to make patient transfer from the mattress to an emergency room bed easier.


The sheet is wrapped around the patient after he is placed on the vacuum mattress. The sides of the mattress are then folded up around the patient to conform to his body. Air inside the mattress is removed through the valve with a vacuum. This vacuum can either be operated manually or electronically.

After the air is removed from the inside of the vacuum mattress, the mattress will become very stiff. If it is wrapped around an injured person properly, it will help immobilize him to prevent further damage. These types of mattresses can be used for any patient, regardless of his injury, but they are primarily used in cases of spinal injuries.

Emergency medical technicians will usually use a vacuum mattress, if available, when they encounter a person with a possible vertebra injury. This can include a broken neck or a broken back. It may also be used to immobilized patients with pelvic girdle injuries. Broken legs, especially broken femurs, can also be immobilized using these mattresses.


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