Suctioning Your Tracheostomy


Call 911 right away if you ever have trouble breathing.

Step 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 clean, running water, or clean your hands with a waterless gel-based alcohol cleanser. Then put on clean, disposable, powderless gloves.

Step 2. Prepare to suction

  • Turn on the suction machine to the setting that your healthcare team gave you.

  • 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.

Step 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, don't suction. Stop inserting the catheter when you start to cough.

    Woman inserting suction catheter into tracheostomy tube in neck.

Step 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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