Assisted cough



The word suction means to "vacuum out". We can connect any drainage tube to suction if we want to remove a collection of fluid. We have different types of suction equipment to manage different types of tubes.

The most common type of suction procedure is performed on patients with a breathing tube. Patients with breathing tubes will accumulate mucous (or phlegm) in their breathing tube. This mucous is usually called "secretions". To help the patient to breathe, secretions need to be removed from the airway. When we remove these secretions, the procedure is called "suctioning the patient".

A small catheter is inserted into the patient's breathing tube. The tube is withdrawn immediately after it is inserted, and the suction is applied during removal of the catheter. If the patient is able to cough and move some of the mucous forward, the procedure is more effective.

Most of the time when we suction patients we use a closed, in-line suction catheter. This in-line catheter allows us to suction the patient without stopping the ventilator support.

Sometimes patients are unable to cough at all because of medications or certain diseases or injury (e.g., spinal cord injury). We may perform an "assisted cough" to clear the sections more effectively. An assisted cough requires two people. One person will apply pressure to the lower chest or upper abdomen. By applying pressure at the moment when the suction is applied, the assistant is mimicking the effect of a cough. Nurses, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists and physicians suction patients as needed. Suctioning is uncomfortable for the patient as it makes them feel that their breath is being taken away.





Image 1: Respiratory therapist and nurse suctioning a patient.



Image 2: In-line suction catheter.