A suction unit, also known as an aspirator, is a type of medical device primarily used for removing obstructions – like mucus, saliva, blood, secretions or vomit – from a person’s airway.
While many people with FOP will not require a nasal or oral suctioning unit on a regular basis, they are important devices to consider owning and keeping nearby in case of emergency to prevent choking, especially when an individual’s jaw has fused. With FOP, the jaw may develop bone in the joint preventing full opening of the mouth. While some people may still have a small jaw opening that allows them to eat small bites of soft foods, it is important to remember that if one vomits there may be too much volume trying to exit the mouth at a rapid speed or force, and choking is a significant hazard when there is little or no jaw mobility to open the mouth. A suction device can help to remove vomit, mucus or secretions at a faster rate and potentially help to prevent choking.
Pictures and general information about the DeVilbiss unit featured in this post were submitted by the Gillooly family and is only one example of the many models and brands that are available – the IFOPA does not endorse one brand of suctioning device/aspirator over another. It is very important to consult with your doctor before considering any medical device.
Suction units are a medical device that require a doctor’s prescription. It is important to discuss which suction device is right for you with your primary doctor and your FOP expert doctor to determine which features and vacuum pressures are appropriate for your needs. Once prescribed, you may also need to consult with a respiratory therapist to set up your device with the appropriate settings and be trained on how to use the device correctly.
Many people with FOP whose jaw has either partially or completely fused also choose to have permanent teeth removed to provide a space in the mouth for soft foods to be eaten as well as providing an escape route for vomit. This is an individual decision and should be discussed with your dentist and FOP expert dentist.
Because this is a medical device, there is a chance the cost could be covered by insurance, Medicaid/Medicare, and or other health care program. Contact your medical policy before purchasing. Suction units/aspirators may also be approved as devices you can purchase under a “Flexible Spending Account” or “Health Savings Account” in the U.S. Again, consult with your medical policies and programs before purchasing.