Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 8 (2001), Issue 3, Pages 163-181

Clinical Practice Guideline for Suctioning the Airway of the Intubated and Non-Intubated Patient

Dina Brooks,1 Cathy M Anderson,2,3 Margaret A Carter,4 Laurie A Downes,5 Sean P Keenan,2 Carol J Kelsey,1 and Janet B Lacy1

1Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, Canada
3Department of Physical Therapy, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
4College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
5College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2001 Canadian Thoracic Society. This open-access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) (, which permits reuse, distribution and reproduction of the article, provided that the original work is properly cited and the reuse is restricted to noncommercial purposes.


OBJECTIVE: To provide physicians, physiotherapists, nurses and respiratory therapists with guidelines for the application of airway suctioning.

DESIGN: This clinical practice guideline was developed using the model by Browman and colleagues. A working group of representatives from four professional colleges (nurses, physicians and surgeons, physiotherapists and respiratory therapists) and research experts was formed to conduct a systematic review, develop evidence-based recommendations and generate clinical practice guidelines. MEDLINE (1966 to 1998), CINAHL (1982 to 1997) and EMBASE (1974 to 1996) as well as the reference lists of identified articles were searched. Inclusion of articles was determined by at least two group members, and studies were classified according to type. Randomized, controlled; randomized; and nonrandomized crossover and comparative cohort trials were grouped by type of intervention and population for use in the development of recommendations. Other observational and animal studies dealing with adverse effects of suctioning were included in the review but were not used in the development of recommendations. Input on the evidence-based recommendations was sought and incorporated from members of all four professions and from experts on content and methodology.

SETTING: Any setting (hospital or home) where suctioning is performed.

POPULATION: Intubated and nonintubated adults, infants and children.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: An attempt was made to develop recommendations in each of the subcategories of suctioning techniques addressed by at least one study. In some subcategories, definite recommendations were made (13 in adults, and three in children and infants); in other subcategories, insufficient evidence precluded recommendations. The recommendations addressed the following aspects of suctioning: preoxygenation, hyperinflation, insufflation, hyperoxygenation, hyperventilation, saline instillation, adaptor use, medication use, open and closed systems, and various types of catheters.