Illuminated tongue depressor
United States Patent 3916881

This application discloses an illuminated tongue depressor including an illumination handle adapted to receive a disposable tongue depressor blade. The handle assembly includes a bulb mounted over a partially reflective, partially light transmitting depressor blade which reflects stray light into the throat and simultaneously conducts non-reflected light to the distal end of the blade to further illuminate the throat. Applicant's device also includes a blade retention arrangement which maintains the blade securely in the handle and propels the blade forward when it is released for disposal without the need of manual handling.

Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
International Classes:
A61B1/24; (IPC1-7): A61B1/06
Field of Search:
128/3,15,16 32
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3349764Self-illuminating tongue depressor with detachable tongue blade1967-10-31Edinger et al.
2004808Diagnostic instrument1935-06-11Gallasch

Primary Examiner:
Gaudet, Richard A.
Assistant Examiner:
Layton, Henry S.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Amster & Rothstein
I claim

1. An illuminated tongue depressor comprising an illumination handle, a tongue depressor blade adapted to be inserted in said handle, a blade guide on said handle for receiving said blade, illumination means mounted on said handle above said blade guide for projecting light over the surface of said blade, movable trigger means on said handle including retaining means adapted to securely retain said blade in position, said trigger being pivoted at a pivot point on said handle and including a single spring having two legs, one leg bearing against said handle for retaining said trigger in locked position and the other leg projecting into said blade guide in position to bear against said blade for urging said blade outwardly from said blade guide so that depression of said trigger ejects said blade.

This invention relates generally to medical instruments and appliances and more specifically to an illuminated tongue depressor.

In examining the throat, the doctor conventionally uses a small penlight to illuminate the back portion of the throat and a disposable flat stick (referred to as a tongue depressor) to depress the patient's tongue and keep it out of the field of view. However, this procedure requires the use of both hands, one to manipulate the light and the other to manipulate the tongue depressor, preventing the doctor from performing certain procedures without more complicated and less efficient illumination devices.

To avoid the necessity of involving both of the doctor's hands, it is known in the art to employ an illumination device wherein the depressor blade is retained directly in the illuminating handle, thereby leaving the doctor's other hand free for other procedures. However, the devices of this type known in the art provide notorously poor illumination and require manual insertion and removal of the depressor blade in the illuminating handle which may result in contaminating the doctor's hands or gloves with bacteria or other material from the throat.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide an illuminated tongue depressor arrangement wherein a broad and deep field of view is brightly illuminated.

A further object of the present invention is to provide an illuminated tongue depressor in which the blade can be removed without the doctor touching the blade.

In accomplishing these and other objects in accordance with the present invention an illuminated tongue depressor includes a battery handle containing a receiving slot for accepting a disposable tongue depressor blade. The handle includes a pivotal trigger arrangement which retains the blade in position during examination and which applies a longitudinal force to the proximal end of the blade upon release thereof, driving the blade forward out of the retaining slot. The blade is preferably of a material which partially reflects light at high angles of incidence, so that the illumination of the bulb may be directed above the surface of the blade with the area between the surface of the blade and the center of direct illumination of the bulb being in part filled with light reflected from the tongue depressor; and which partially conducts light so that light which is not reflected by the blade surface is transmitted through the blade and eminates at the distal end of the blade.

Further features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from a review of the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the appended drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation of tongue depressor blade and illuminating handle, partially broken away;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the depressor blade;

FIG. 3 is a view taken along line 3--3 in FIG. 1; and

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of the depressor blade and illumination handle.

Referring to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows applicant's illuminating handle 10 and depressor blade 32 with the blade removed. Handle 10 includes an illumination head section 22 and a battery carrying body section 12. The construction of the body section 12 is relatively conventional and includes a pocket clip 14 and an on-off switch 16. As shown in more detail in FIG. 4, the body section carries a series of batteries 18 which make positive contact with a pin 20 which protrudes from the battery compartment into head section 22. In accordance with custom, contact 20 provides the positive contact while negative contact is provided from the base of battery 18 (not shown) through the sides of handle 12 or a metallic strip mounted within handle 12 (not shown) which engages the metallic body of head section 22. As seen in FIG. 4, head section 22 may be adapted to screw directly into body 12.

Head section 22 includes a blade receiving and retaining assembly 26 and a bulb carrying assembly 28, with the bulb carrying assembly being positioned over the blade receiving assembly so as to direct light from the bulb 30 over the surface of blade 32.

The blade retaining mechanism includes a flat blade supporting surface 34 (best shown in FIG. 3) having two upstanding and overturned guide members 36 which define a receiving channel for the proximal end of the blade 32. Blade 32 is provided with a rectangular cutout 38, and surface 34 includes a corresponding cutout 40. A release trigger 42 is provided beneath surface 34, with trigger 42 being pivoted at pin 44. Trigger 42 includes an upstanding stud 42a which projects through aperture 40 in surface 34 and defines a vertical retaining surface 42b and an oblique deflecting surface 42c.

Trigger 42 is retained in the clockwise pivoted position by a spring 46 which includes a central portion mounted on pin 48 on the trigger and two laterally extending legs 46a and 46b. Leg 46a (shown in FIG. 4) extends downwardly into a trigger seat area in head section 22 and bears against interior surface 24 of the trigger seat, urging trigger 42 in the clockwise direction. At the same time, leg 46b of spring 46 projects upwardly behind trigger 42 and protrudes through an aperture 48 in surface 34.

When the proximal end of blade 32 is inserted on surface 34 between guides 36 the proximal lip of blade 32 bears against surface 42c of stud 42a, rotating trigger 42 in a counterclockwise direction to the position shown in broken line in FIG. 4. In this position, projection 42a is below surface 34 and the blade slides freely into the receiving slot. As it approaches the back of the receiving slot, the distal end of blade 32 bears against spring leg 46b cocking leg 46b rearwardly. When blade 32 is fully inserted in the receiving slot, stud 42a pivots into aperture 40 retaining the blade in its inserted position against the longitudinal force of spring leg 46b.

When it is desired to remove the blade, the doctor simply depresses trigger 42 pivoting the trigger in a counterclockwise direction removing stud 42a from aperture 38 and permitting spring leg 46b to drive the blade outwardly into a waste receptacle.

The bulb assembly 28 includes a bulb guide 46 having a cylindrical aperture adapted to receive the bulb 30. In the present preferred embodiment, bulb 30 includes positive and negative side contact provided by a negative jacket contact 50 and a recessed positive side contact collar 52. This side contact arrangement permits bulb 30 to be inserted from the rear of bulb receiving element 46. Negative contact to bulb 30 is made through negative jacket 50 which engages metal bulb guide 46 which is in contact with head 22, which in turn makes negative contact with batteries 18 as previously described. Positive contact to the bulb 30 is made through positive contact collar 52 which is contacted by a spring loaded pin 54 which moves axially in guide channel 56. Pin 54 is urged by spring 58 against the positive contact collar 52 of bulb 30 while the rear end of spring 58 and guide tube 56 are in positive contact with pin 20, completing the positive connection as previously described.

Preferably, depressor blade 32 is of clear plastic or other material such as poly carbonate, poly methyl methacrylate or other materials which partially reflects light directed against the blade at a high angle of incidence, i.e., the angle formed by the illumination of bulb 30 on blade 32. Blade 32 also has the property of transmitting incident light which is not reflected, such light being released at the curved distal end of the blade. Numerous clear plastic materials are available in the art for use in the depressor blade. In addition, blade 32 preferably includes a series of ridges 60 which act to strengthen blade 32 against longitudinal bending and act to disperse light reflected off the blade. Further, bulb collar 46 positions bulb 30 at an angle upwardly with respect to blade 32 when blade 32 is in position. Applicant has found that this illumination angle illuminates a greater portion of the throat in that the center of illumination of bulb 30 is relatively high in the throat with the area between the center of illumination of bulb 30 and the depressor 32 being illuminated partially by direct light from bulb 30, partially by light reflected from the surface of blade 32 and partially from light transmitted through blade 32. Applicant has found that this arrangement substantially increases the area and intensity of illumination within the throat and hence the effectiveness of this device.

It is to be understood that the above description relates to a preferred but nonetheless representative embodiment of the present invention and that numerous modifications of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention.