Abstract

Airway clearance is a foremost priority for combat medics dealing with battlefield trauma. This life saving intervention starts with inspection, clearing any obstructions from the airway, and if necessary, placement of an endotracheal tube to secure the airway. For inspecting and clearing the airway under complicated battlefield conditions, combat medics require a portable suction device that is compact, lightweight, rugged, and capable of rapidly evacuating a mix of liquid and solid particles, which may include bone fragments or broken teeth. While several portable suction devices are available on the market, none were developed specifically for the combat environment. Interviews with combat medics and other relevant personnel revealed that currently available systems are limited in utility to the point of often being intentionally omitted from their kits. In addition, these discussions identified several design specifications for a desired system, such as size (30 × 10 × 10 cm), weight (≤1 kg), fluid flowrate (1 L/min), and canister size (0.5–1 L), among others. This research focused on developing and characterizing a functional prototype within the specified design criteria. After designing and fabricating the device, evacuation of water, blood mimicking solution, and simulated vomitus solution were assessed. In addition, a comparative analysis was carried out between the five different commercially available suction catheters by assessing fluid flow rate and obstruction resistance. The results demonstrate the first proof-of-concept characterization for a novel combat-oriented suction system and provide a basis for comparing the performance of suction systems and catheters used in airway management.

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