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Oropharyngeal suctioning: Clinical skills notes




Oropharyngeal Suctioning


Oropharyngeal suctioning is a procedure used to remove secretions from the oral cavity and pharynx. Secretions can block the trachea and obstruct the normal airflow, which can lead to an insufficient oxygen supply. Normally, clients cough to remove these secretions, but some individuals are too weak or cannot cough, so these clients require suctioning to clear the airway. 

Indications for oropharyngeal suctioning

Common signs and symptoms that suggest that a client may require suctioning include:
  • difficulty coughing up secretions and swallowing
  • decreased consciousness
  • visible secretions that obstruct the airflow
  • vomitus in the mouth
  • noisy breath sounds

This procedure is also used in individuals who have had oral surgeries; mouth trauma; or cerebrovascular injuries, like a stroke that results in drooling and impaired swallowing. 

Finally, oropharyngeal suctioning is used to provide oral hygiene and prevent infection in individuals that have impaired swallowing or artificial airway.

Yankauer suction device

The suction catheter used for oropharyngeal suctioning is a rigid, bent, and plastic catheter called the Yankauer suction catheter, or Yankauer tip. A Yankauer suction catheter is transparent, which lets you see the secretions and fluids being suctioned out. The standard type of Yankauer catheter has a bulb tip with one large and several smaller openings. The bulb tip prevents trauma to the oral cavity, while smaller openings provide suctioning even if the large opening is blocked.

Figure 1: Yankauer suction catheter.


The supplies you will need for the procedure include:
  • clean gloves
  • mask and goggles, or face shield
  • bath towels, cloth, or disposable paper drape
  • disposable cup or washbasin
  • tap water or normal saline
  • the suction device and connecting tubing
  • an oral airway and washcloth (if indicated)


  1. The client should be in a semi-Fowler or sitting position with a bath towel, cloth, or paper draped over their chest.
  2. Perform hand hygiene and apply clean gloves.
  3. Use a face shield or mask and goggles because suctioning can cause splashing.
  4. Fill the cup or washbasin with water or normal saline.
  5. Insert the catheter and run it along the gum line to the pharynx where the secretions are suctioned out.
  6. Rinse the catheter by placing it in the cup or wash basin because this prevents the catheter and connecting tubing from becoming clogged with secretions.
  7. Once done, remove the bath towel, cloth, or disposable drape; reposition your client; and clean up supplies.
  8. Remove the gloves, face shield, or mask.
  9. Perform hand hygiene.

Figure 2: Procedure for using the Yankauer suction catheter. A. Running the catheter along the gum line and B. rinsing it.


  • the date and time of the procedure
  • your observations