Gastric suction, also known as stomach pumping, gastric lavage and nasogastric tube suction, is when your stomach is emptied of its contents using a piece of durable medical equipment. The procedure is generally used in the case of emergency, such as when a poison or other toxin must be removed from the digestive organ. In such cases, gastric suction generally only works within four hours of ingesting a harmful substance – after that, it moves too far  into the digestive tract to be extracted. There are also many other reasons one would need to get their stomach pumped, such as:

  • Collecting stomach acid for testing
  • Removing blood during a stomach hemorrhage
  • Reducing pressure within a blocked intestine
  • Cleaning the stomach during an endoscopy to prevent you from vomiting blood

During the process, a tube is inserted in the mouth or nose and goes through the esophagus until it reaches the stomach. This can cause irritation to the food pipe and gagging, though many patients are given medicine to reduce these side effects. A gastric pump then sucks the contents from the stomach through the tube and into a reservoir tank, also known as a canister.

What are gastric suction pump canisters?
The canister is the part of the gastric suction pump system that stores the harmful substances taken from the stomach. They generally hold between 1,100 and 2,100 milliliters of fluid. While select varieties are disposable after a few uses, they are generally long-term-use pieces of durable medical equipment. Canisters are typically made from lexan – the same type of plastic used for airplane windows – to provide extreme suction capability.

They must be cleaned (with any basic commercial cleaner) and inspected regularly for proper function. There is also a liner within the canister that provides a tight seal so there is proper suction to draw out the fluids. If that liner or any other part of the canister is cracked, it must be replaced. The whole canister is typically replaced rather than just the liner.

Are they covered by Medicare?
If you require replacement of your gastric suction pump canister, you can get coverage through Medicare Part B. While you pay 20 percent of the cost of the product, the national health care program will pay for 80 percent. You will also be required to meet your plan's deductible. Note that if you are renting your equipment, such as during a hospital visit or for short-term use at home, Medicare may cover your canister in a different way.

How do I qualify for coverage?
To get coverage for your canister, you must have a doctor's note from your physician for use of a gastric suction pump in your home. That medical professional must be enrolled in the national health care program. Additionally, you may have to bring your gastric suction pump to your physician so that he or she can determine whether or not the device needs a new canister, in which case he or she can provide you with a prescription for the replacement.

How much will gastric suction pump canisters cost?
The cost of your canister varies by the make and model of your gastric suction pump as well as the supplier you go through. You can generally purchase a canister for around $10, though they tend to come in packs, so you might expect to pay around $100 for a case of 10 before Medicare coverage. Additionally, depending on where you live, you may be able to purchase yours through the Competitive Bidding Program, which tends to offer lower prices.

Where do I get gastric suction pump canisters?
A replacement canister for your gastric suction pump can be bought through a durable medical equipment manufacturer or health care products supplier. You may want to go through the same company that provided your pump to ensure that the canister is compatible. Keep in mind that the supplier you purchase from must be enrolled or under contract with Medicare and must accept assignment from your Medicare Part B plan. The health care program must also pre-approve the cost of the supply before you order it. If not, you might have to pay for the entire price of the canister when you go to get it.