Title:
Medical diagnostic inspection spatula
United States Patent 3890960


Abstract:
A medical-diagnostic inspection spatula having two projecting prongs at one end so that when the spatula is placed in a mouth the prongs rest on the rear part of the tongue and the highly sensitive base of the tongue remains virtually untouched.



Inventors:
Wunsch, Nee Kuhn Friedgard (Schwieberdingen, DT)
Wunsch, Erich (Schwieberdingen, DT)
Application Number:
05/424612
Publication Date:
06/24/1975
Filing Date:
12/13/1973
Assignee:
EFRUDEC-VERTRIEBSGESELLSCHAFT MBH FUR INDUSTRIEPRODUKTE AUS METALL UND KUNSTSTOFF
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
600/192, 600/212, 600/241
International Classes:
A61B1/24; A61B13/00; (IPC1-7): A61B1/06
Field of Search:
128/15,16
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3638644ILLUMINATED SURGICAL SPECULUM1972-02-01Reick
3154069Grooved tongue depressor1964-10-27Ring
2247258Surgical instrument1941-06-24Shepard
1187079N/A1916-06-13Miller et al.



Primary Examiner:
Gaudet, Richard A.
Assistant Examiner:
Layton, Henry S.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Striker, Michael S.
Claims:
We claim

1. A spatula, particularly for the diagnostic inspection of the mouth and throat, comprising an elongated body portion having an upper and a lower surface, two opposite end portions and a central portion located intermediate of the latter, one of said end portions being adapted to be received into the mouth cavity; a pair of transversely spaced skids provided at said one end portion and extending downwardly of said lower surface, whereby said skids only contact the rear part of the tongue and do not contact the base area of the tongue upon insertion of said one end portion into the mouth cavity; and groove-shaped recesses formed in said upper surface of said one end portion in the region of said skids and extending substantially longitudinally along the length of said skids.

2. A spatula as defined in claim 1, wherein said one end portion further comprises two laterally spaced projecting prongs, each of which projects longitudinally beyond said skids.

3. A spatula as defined in claim 2, wherein said central portion includes a central fillet, and wherein said central fillet extends between said prongs at a distance from the free end thereof.

4. A spatula according to claim 1, made of synthetic plastic material.

5. A spatula, particularly for the diagnostic inspection of the mouth and throat, comprising an elongated body portion having an upper and a lower surface, two opposite end portions and a central portion located intermediate thereof, one of said end portions being adapted to be received into the mouth cavity and being formed of light-conductive synthetic material forming a luminous head, the other of said end portions being adapted to form a plug-in head for plugging into a light source so that light can be transmitted to said luminous head and illuminate said mouth cavity, and said central portion including a central fillet of thinner cross-section than said plug-in head and stiffening beads extending longitudinally along the lateral edges of said central portion, said central fillet and said stiffening beads extending and respectively merging into said luminous head at said one end portion and into said plug-in head at said other end portion.

6. A spatula as defined in claim 5; further comprising a pair of transversely spaced skids provided at said one end portion, and wherein said central fillet extends between said skids; and wherein said one end portion comprises two laterally spaced projecting prongs and said central fillet extends between said prongs at a distance from the free end thereof.

7. A spatula as defined in claim 6, wherein said skids longitudinally extend from said one end portion towards said central portion along said lower surface and merge into said stiffening beads.

8. A spatula as defined in claim 5, wherein said luminous head forms a surface which is essentially planar and includes said upper surface of said body portion.

9. A spatula as defined in claim 8, wherein said surface of said luminous head is provided with projections which are adapted to increase light refraction.

10. A spatula as defined in claim 5, wherein said stiffening beads of said central portion of said spatula project over said upper surface of said elongated body portion in the region of said central fillet in the upward direction.

11. A spatula as defined in claim 5, wherein said stiffening beads of said central portion of said spatula project over said lower surface of said elongated body portion in the region of said central fillet in the downward direction.

12. A spatula as defined in claim 5, wherein said central portion is bendable approximately in the area of its longitudinal center, and wherein said central fillet has a cross-section which is thicker than the cross-section of said luminous head, said cross-section of said central portion narrowing from said longitudinal center towards said luminous head in a gradual manner.

13. A spatula as defined in claim 5, wherein said plug-in head is provided with a wedge-shaped guide surface having a cross-section, and wherein said light source has an opening which has a cross-section smaller than said cross-section of said guide surface, so that said plug-in head may be plugged into said light source.

Description:
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a spatula, preferably made of synthetic material, for the medical-diagnostic inspection of the mouth and throat. Spatulas of this kind consist, for example, of wood or synthetic material and are intended as disposable spatulas to be used only once.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Known spatulas of synthetic material have substantially the same approximately strip-like form as have wooden spatulas, at least the end which is introduced into the mouth and throat for medical-diagnostic inspection being approximately square or rounded.

It has been found that examination by means of these known spatulas are very unpleasant for the patient because, at the end of the spatula introduced into the throat for examination, the underside of the spatula is pressed over its whole surface against the base (or back) of the tongue. The sensitivity of the tongue is the highest at the base and decreases towards the tip. Consequently the choking irritation is also the greatest at the tongue base, and a comparatively strong and unpleasant choking irritation is therefore caused during examination with known spatulas.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The object of the present invention is to provide a spatula which renders the medical-diagnostic inspection of the mouth and throat more pleasant for the patient.

In a spatula of the type mentioned above this problem is solved according to the invention by providing one end of the spatula by which the spatula is introduced into the mouth and throat, with two projecting prongs. When the spatula is used as intended, this ensures that the spatula end introduced into the throat cavity rests on the rear part of the tongue only along the prongs, i.e. about linearly and not over a large surface, and that the highly sensitive base of the tongue remains virtually untouched. The choking irritation is thus substantially reduced. Moreover, the base of the tongue is exposed in the space between the prongs and is better visible to the physician. At the same time the prongs are a sorting criterion, especially in the production from synthetic material by means of injection-moulding machines, in that the injection-moulded spatulas can be automatically sorted and oriented without manual assistance and packed, for example, by means of shrunk-on foil. The prongs can be rounded at their free end with a comparatively great radius and/or slightly bent, similarly to the prongs of forks, in order to render the introduction and the examination as pleasant as possible for the patient.

Moreover, a spatula for medical-diagnostic inspection may be designed in such a way that, at the end by which the spatula is introduced into the mouth and throat, skids are provided on the underside of the spatula which comes in contact with the tongue during the medical-diagnostic inspection, which skids project downwards over the surface of the spatula. This ensures that the end of the spatula does not rest on the tongue over a large surface (in the known manner), only the skids having an approximately linear contact with the rear part of the tongue and the base of the tongue being hardly touched. The choking irritation is therefore very slight.

It may be advantageous to provide groove-shaped recesses which extend on the upper side of the spatula in the area of the skids approximately over the length of the latter. This results in the saving of material and weight so that the spatula becomes somewhat cheaper and lighter. The recesses also help to prevent the spatula from being reused, since even laymen can understand that these recesses are collectors of saliva etc.; given the necessary insight, this virtually compels them to discard the spatula after a single use, even if the spatulas have a comparatively robust and hence expensive appearance.

In a further advantageous embodiment the skids end in the prongs, on the one hand, and in the spatula surface on the underside of the spatula, on the other hand. It may be of advantage to dye the spatula in the colour of a wood.

The spatulas designed according to the present invention may be straight-lined or bent. If they are produced from synthetic material, it is possible to save material and hence weight, costs, and space for packing and storage even with rectilinear spatulas by providing them with a U- or double-T-shaped cross-section so that they are comparatively thin between the longitudinal edges but have a high stability due to the profile.

In another, particularly advantageous version of a spatula consisting of a light-conductive synthetic material, the arrangement is such that one spatula end is designed in known manner as a plug-in head to be plugged into a corresponding opening of a torch while the opposite end carrying the prongs and/or skids is designed as a luminous (or illuminating) head for the emergence of the transmitted light; that the central part of the spatula extending between the plug-in head and the luminous head is provided with a central portion which is thinner than the cross-section of the plug-in head and with stiffening beads extending along the lateral edges; and that the central portion with the stiffening beads ends continuously and steadily in the luminous head, on the one hand, and the plug-in head, on the other hand.

Light-conductive spatulas of synthetic material which are usually bent and can be plugged by their plug-in head into a preferably rechargeable torch are known. For example, a spatula of this kind is known which is made of polymethacrylic acid ester, the plug-in head and the central part being formed from a smooth and relatively thick strip; the luminous head following the central part is designed as a thickened lens which is curved on its bottom surface which comes in contact with the tongue when the spatula is used as intended. In the transition area between the central part of the spatula and this lens the underside of the spatula is provided with a notch which refracts the light conducted to the lens so that it is reflected downwards. Near the plug-in head of the known spatula the central part of the spatula is provided with a recess into which a finger can be placed during the examination, e.g. for better support. This known luminous spatula is comparatively thick and heavy and hence expensive in production storage and, in particular, regarding its intended use as a disposable spatula; such spatulas are therefore frequently used several times after disinfection. If disinfection is omitted due to an oversight of the assistant staff or if disinfected luminous spatulas are mixed with non-disinfected spatulas, then this is not only unhygienic, it involves, above all, the risk of transferring pathogenic agents. Since the known spatulas tend to be used repeatedly, mainly because of their comparatively high price, this inherent danger cannot be excluded. It is another disadvantage of the known luminous spatula that the mouth and throat are not optimally illuminated; this is partly due to the design of the luminous head but also to loss of light caused by the light being refracted and reflected in the area of the recess instead of being conducted to the luminous head.

All these disadvantages have been overcome in the spatula of light-conductive synthetic material according to the present invention. Due to the central part which is thinner than the cross-section of the plug-in head and provided with stiffening beads, the consumption of material and hence the weight and, above all, the price are appreciably reduced; it is now easier to discard the spatula after a single use because the thickness, weight and, above all, the price no longer provide an inducement to the repeated use of these spatulas. The low weight moreover leads to savings in storage, transport etc., and it also has the result that the spatula requires less space and is easier to handle. The low material consumption moreover permits of higher output figures in the production by means of injection moulding machines, hence of a better utilization of the machines, and this is again reflected in the price. In spite of this saving of material, the necessary mechanical strength and a high resistance moment are achieved by means of the stiffening beads. Due to the fact that the central part with the stiffening beads ends in the luminous head, on the one hand, and the plug-in head, on the other hand, continuously and steadily, i.e. without any points of sudden change with a great radius, the light transmission is substantially increased and this permits of an improved illumination of the throat. The steady continuous transition obviates sudden changes of the cross-section which used to lead to undesirable light refraction and light losses. The prongs and/or skids on the luminous head further provide sorting characteristics so that all of the spatulas can be automatically sorted, oriented and packed in the correct position and orientation without manual assistance. This is of particular importance for sterile packing. Another advantage of such a spatula provided with prongs consist in that the space between the prongs is efficiently illuminated and the base of the tongue exposed in the space between the prongs is therefore better visible to the physician during the examination. Essentially the same advantages exist in spatulas of this kind wherein the luminous head is provided on the underside of the spatula either only with skids or also with prongs, the skids ending continuously and steadily in the prongs and the spatula surface. This ensures a good, essentially loss-free light conduction to the skids and from the latter to the free end of the prongs.

It may also be of advantage for the central part to extend with a substantially constant thickness into the luminous head and to end at a distance from the free end of the prongs between the latter. In another advantageous embodiment the skids end in the stiffening beads in the direction of the central part. In this way the light conduction and transmission is even further increased, since the light is conducted, virtually without losses, not only via the central part but also via the stiffening beads to the skids and/or free ends of the prongs.

It may further be of advantage if the surface of the luminous head is essentially plane and contains the surface of the central part in the area of the luminous head. According to another advantageous embodiment the whole surface of the luminous head, but at least the surface of the central part in the area of the luminous head, is provided with surface roughnesses, e.g. bump-shaped protruberances, mainly in order to increase the light refraction. These surface roughnesses can be produced, for example, by roughening the plastics mould by sand-blasting or by forming several small recesses of various shapes, e.g. pyramidal recesses, by beating with a suitable tool. The roughening of the surface ensures a better illumination of the throat when the spatula is used, since the light conducted to the luminous head is refracted and reflected by the surface roughnesses over the whole surface of the upper side of the luminous head. Furthermore, the surface roughnesses also help to show the dangers of using the spatula after the first use without cleaning it and thus to prevent it from being reused.

An advantageous arrangement may also consist in that the stiffening beads of the central part of the spatula project over the lower and/or upper surface of the central part in downward or upward direction. Stiffening beads projecting over the top surface of the central part have the advantage that no sharp edges occur on the separating line of the mould when the spatula is produced by injection-moulding.

In a spatula wherein the central part is bent approximately in the area of its longitudinally centre with a comparatively great radius of curvature, it may be of advantage for the central part to have a thicker cross-section on the length between the curvature and the plug-in head than it has on the remaining length, the cross-section narrowing from the curve towards the luminous head. This form of the cross-section of the central part ensures that it is sufficiently stable to control even the highest bending moments occurring between the curvature and the luminous head.

With a spatula whose plug-in head is provided on both lateral edges with approximately wedge-shaped guide surfaces cooperating with associated supporting surfaces in the opening of the torch for the plug-in connection, it may be of advantage for the wedge angle of the guide surfaces to be greater than the wedge angle of the supporting surfaces. Experience shows that in the production of parts of synthetic material in injection-moulding machines, in particular with high output figures, the dimensions of the mouldings cannot be exactly reproduced. For the wedge-shaped guide surfaces of the plug-in head this means that the wedge angle cannot be exactly reproduced, the result being that the spatula may not sit securely in the opening of the torch in the case of measurement differences The design according to the invention ensures that when the spatula is plugged into the torch, the wedge-shaped guide surface of the plug-in head are clamped at the upper and lower ends where they abut on the wedge-shaped support surfaces in the opening of the torch between these supporting surfaces; this is made possible by the elasticity of the material caused by the comparatively small wall thickness of the plug-in head in this area. This clamping effect ensures a secure fit even in the case of measurement differences. Furthermore, the small wall thickness at the clamping points enables the spatula to be retracted from the torch without the use of much force.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a torch with a spatula according to a first embodiment plugged in;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged side view of the spatula of FIG. 1 in actual size;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the spatula of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the spatula of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a section along the line V--V in FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a section along the line VI--VI in FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is a section along the line VII--VII in FIG. 2;

FIG. 8 is a section along the line VIII--VIII in FIG. 2;

FIG. 9 is a bottom view similar to that of FIG. 4, of a spatula according to a second embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 illustrates a light-conductive spatula 10 of glass-clear synthetic materia, viz. polystyrene, which is plugged into the opening 11 of a preferably rechargeable torch 12. In this form the unit comprising the spatula 10 and the torch 12 is ready for a medical-diagnostic inspection of the mouth and throat. A lamp from which the light is transmitted to the light-conductive spatula 10 and which is arranged in the opening 11 of the torch 12 is not shown.

Details of the spatula 10 can be seen from FIGS. 2 - 8, substantially in actually size. The spatula 10 comprises a plug-in head 13 which can be plugged into the opening 11, and a subsequent central part 14 which is followed by a luminous head 15. The central part 14 of the spatula is curved approximately at its longitudinal centre at 6 with a great radius, as can be seen from FIG. 2. A slight curvature of great radius is further provided in the transition area between the central part 14 and the luminous head 15. In this curved form the spatula 10 is effectively adapted to the throat cavity to be inspected.

The central part 14 of the spatula comprises a central fillet 16 which is thinner than is the cross-section of the plug-in head 13, and stiffening beads 17 and 18 extending along the two lateral edges of the central fillet. The stiffening beads 17 and 18 end continuously and steadily and without any light-refractive surfaces in the luminous head 15, on the one hand, and in the plug-in head 13, on the other hand. The central fillet 16 extends with essentially constant thickness into the luminous head 15. In the same way the central fillet 16 extends at the other end with essentially constant thickness into the plug-in head 13.

At its free end the luminous head 15 is provided with two short projecting prongs 19 and 20. The central fillet 16 extending into the luminous head 15 between the two prongs 19 and 20 ends at a distance from the free end of the prongs 19 and 20 so that an inward-reaching e.g. a semi-circular or U-shaped, recess 21 is formed at this point. On its underside the luminous head 15 is provided with skids 22 and 23 extending on either side of the central fillet 16 and projecting downwards over the bottom surface of the central fillet. This ensures that when the spatula is used as intended, the luminous head 15 is pressed against the rear part of the tongue only by the skids 22 and 23 and the highly sensitive base of the tongue remains virtually untouched. Moreover, the base of the tongue is exposed and thus better visible to the examining physician.

FIG. 4, in particular, shows that the skids 22 and 23 end substantially without interruption in the prongs 19, 20, on the one hand, and in the stiffening beads 17, 18, on the other hand. Groove-shaped recesses 24 and 25 extending on the top side of the luminous head 15 in the area of the skids 22, 23 approximately over the length of the latter are provided primarily to save material; they can also be seen in FIG. 5.

FIG. 2 shows that the surface of the luminous head 15 is essentially plane and contains the surface of the central fillet 16 in the area of the luminous head 15. The whole surface of the luminous head 15, but at least the surface of the central fillet 16 in the area of the luminous head 15, has surface roughnesses 26, for example, bump-like protruberances which cause the light conducted from the opening 11 of the torch 12 to the luminous head 15 to be refracted over the whole area of the top surface of the spatula 10 in the zone of the luminous head 15, an extremely good illumination of the throat cavity being thus achieved. Care must be taken that no light refraction takes place on the bottom side of the luminous head 15, since this would only lead to loss of light.

FIGS. 6 - 8, in particular, show that the stiffening beads 17 and 18 are so arranged that they project over a lower as well as the upper surface of the central fillet in downward, respectively upward direction. The fact that the stiffening beads 17 and 18 project also over the top surface of the central fillet 16 in upward direction ensures that no sharp edges occur on the parting line of the mould used for the production of the spatulas. If this is disregarded, then it is sufficient with regard to strength if the stiffening beads 17 and 18 project only downwards over the bottom side of the central fillet 16. If the thickness of the cross-section of the central fillet 16 of FIGS. 6 and 7 are compared, then it will be seen that the central fillet has a thicker cross-section over its length between the curvature 6 (see FIG. 2) and the plug-in head 13 than it has over the length of the remaining portion of the central part 14 of the spatula. In order to obviate undesirable light refraction, the cross-section of the central fillet 16 continuously narrows from the curvature 6 in the direction towards the luminous head 15 with a great radius of curvature.

This design of the spatula 10 has the result that the light emanating from the torch 12 and conducted into the plug-in head 13 is not refracted over the whole length of the spatula but that refraction occurs only on the surface of the luminous head 15 and at the ends of the prongs 19 and 20, that is to say at the points where the light should emerge in order to achieve the optimal illumination of the throat cavity. It also ensures that the consumption of material of the spatula 10, and hence its weight, is extremely low and that it is therefore very inexpensive to produce. Above all, high output figures are achieved in the production by means of injection-moulding machines and this means an efficient utilization of the machine. All this is due to the fact that the central fillet 16 is extremely thin but that nevertheless the spatula 10 has a sufficient resistance moment because of the stiffening beads 17 and 18. At the points where the highest bending moments occur during the examination, i.e. in the section between the plug-in head 13 and the curvature 6, the central fillet 16 is somewhat thicker for reasons of strength so that these bending moments can also be absorbed.

For plugging the plug-in head 13 of the spatula 10 into the opening 11 of the torch 12, two approximately wedge-shaped supporting surfaces 27 are provided in known manner inside the said opening 11 on two opposed sides; these supporting surfaces 27 are shown in FIG. 8 in broken lines and are inclined relative to the vertical through an angle β. For the plug connection of the spatula 10 with the plug-in head 13 in the torch opening 11, the plug-in head 13 is provided on both lateral edges with associated wedge-shaped guide surfaces 28. The guide surfaces 28 form with the vertical an angle α which is at least slightly smaller than the angle β. This ensures that after insertion of the spatula 10 a clamping is achieved at the four points 30, due to resilience caused by the thin wall thickness. This ensures that the spatula 10 is in any case securely seated in the opening 11, even in the case of slight measurement differences of the plug-in head 13. Because of the small wall thickness in the zone of the points 30 the spatula 10 can be removed from the torch 12 without the application of much force.

In the second embodiment in FIG. 9 the parts corresponding to the first embodiment have the same reference numbers plus 100 so that reference is made to the description of the first embodiment.

The spatula 110 comprises a straight-lined strip, similar to known wooden spatulas, and is injection moulded, for example from a synthetic material coloured in a wood shade. The end of the spatula which is introduced into the throat cavity in the course of the medical-diagnostic inspection, is provided with two skids 122, 123 projecting downwards from the bottom surface of the spatula and/or two projecting prongs 119, 120.