Title:
TAMPON FOR DIRECTIONAL PLACEMENT AND APPLICATOR THEREFOR
United States Patent 3643661


Abstract:
A catamenial tampon designed for directional placement in the vaginal cavity. The tampon is made of an oblong pledget of absorbent material, compressed into thin, flat, self-sustaining, resilient sheet form and folded longitudinally on itself in symmetrical segments to form an elongate body of substantially circular cross section of a size suitable for insertion in the vaginal tract. The folds are arranged to form at least one longitudinal groove in the tampon body. The folded tampon, which tends to spring back to flat form unless restrained, is held in its folded form within a tubular applicator which has at least one longitudinal rib in mated and slidable relationship with the longitudinal groove of the tampon, and which has a telescoping ejector disposed in one end. The applicator tube has indicia to show the radial disposition of the tampon within the tube in order to facilitate placement of the tampon in a predetermined position by the user.



Inventors:
CROCKFORD JOSEPH R
Application Number:
04/841879
Publication Date:
02/22/1972
Filing Date:
07/15/1969
Assignee:
KIMBERLY-CLARK CORP.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61F13/20; A61F13/26; (IPC1-7): A61F13/20; A61F15/00
Field of Search:
128/263,260,270,285,284,296
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3431909UNCOMPRESSED TAMPON AND APPLICATOR1969-03-11Krusko
3196873Tampon and applicator1965-07-27Bletzinger et al.
2761449Cellulosic product1956-09-04Bletzinger
2444528Intravaginal pack and its manufacture1948-07-06Popper et al.
2430250Depositor and applicator1947-11-04Seidler
2264586Catamenial device1941-12-02Ross
1074245N/A1913-09-30Casevitz



Foreign References:
GB515041A1939-11-24
Primary Examiner:
Michell, Robert W.
Assistant Examiner:
Dyer R. P.
Claims:
What is claimed is

1. An improved catamenial tampon and applicator tube thereof, said tampon comprising an oblong pledget of absorbent material compressed into a thin self-sustaining resilient sheet form, said self-sustaining sheet being folded longitudinally on itself a plurality of times into adjoining segments to provide a folded tampon body of a size suitable for insertion into the vaginal tract, said folds forming at least one longitudinally extending exterior groove in said body, said folded body being slidably disposed within said applicator tube whereby said folds provide a springlike transversely biased force against the interior sidewalls of said tube, said applicator tube having raised interior guide means for slidable association with the groove in said tampon body to prevent radial shifting of said folded body out of its transversely biased position within said tube, indicia means on the outer surface of said applicator tube for indicating the radial disposition of said folded body within said tube, said indicia means being disposed at a point on the surface of said tube whereby when an imaginary line is dropped from said point to intercept said folded body said line will be normal to a plane which defines the transverse expansion direction of said folded body, and means to eject said tampon body from said tube.

2. The device of claim 1 in which said absorbent material comprises absorbent sponge.

3. The device of claim 1 in which said absorbent material comprises 3 to 20 percent by weight of nonabsorbent, synthetic, resilient fibers having lengths in the range of about 3/4 to about 21/2 and a denier within the range of about 3 to 20, and a major portion of the remainder comprising absorbent fibers having lengths generally less than 3/16 inch.

4. The device of claim 1 in which said guide means comprises a raised longitudinally extending rib.

5. The device of claim 1 in which said ejector means comprises a tube slidably fitted in the lower end of said applicator tube and having a longitudinal slot in its surface to cooperate with said guide means.

6. A compressed absorbent catamenial tampon disposed in a tubular applicator device and adapted for directional placement and expansion in the vaginal cavity, said tampon being comprised of an oblong pledget of absorbent material in the form of a thin, compressed self-sustaining resilient sheet with a withdrawal string attached to one end thereof, said sheet being longitudinally folded on itself a plurality of times into substantially symmetrical segments on each side of the longitudinal centerline to form an elongate body of a length and width suitable for insertion into the vaginal tract, said folds being adapted to provide at least one longitudinally extending exterior groove in said body, said tubular applicator device being comprised of an outer tube and an inner tube in telescopic association with said outer tube and slidably engaged therewith, said folded tampon body being disposed in said outer tube whereby said folds cause a springlike transversely biased force to be exerted against the sidewalls of said outer tube, said outer tube having a raised longitudinally extending rib disposed on its inner wall, said folded tampon body being disposed in said outer tube with said groove being mated with and slidably associated with the rib in said tampon body, and indicia on the outer surface of said outer tube at a point located directly above said longitudinal centerline whereby when an imaginary line is dropped from said point to intercept said folded tampon body said line is normal to the planar unfolded dimension of said sheet indicating the radial disposition of said folded tampon body in said tube.

7. The device of claim 6 in which said absorbent material comprises absorbent sponge.

8. The device of claim 6 in which said absorbent material comprises 3 to 20 percent by weight of nonabsorbent, synthetic, resilient fibers having lengths in the range of about 3/4 to about 2/1/2 inches and a denier within the range of about 3 to 20, and a major portion of the remainder comprising absorbent fibers having lengths generally less than 3/16 inch.

9. The device of claim 6 in which said groove is disposed above a centrally disposed fold.

10. The device of claim 6 in which said indicia is disposed directly above said groove.

11. The device of claim 6 in which said inner tube has a longitudinally extending exterior groove slidably associated with the rib in said outer tube.

12. The device of claim 6 in which the cross section of said folded body is in the form of a U with the legs of said U further folded inwardly with the faces of said folded leg portions in juxtaposition.

13. The device of claim 6 in which the cross section of said folded body is in the form of an M.

14. The device of claim 6 in which the folds comprise a plurality of vertical pleats and said groove is disposed above the V formed by the central pleat.

15. The device of claim 14 in which the width of the centrally disposed pleats is approximately equal to the diameter of said outer tube and the adjacent pleats on each side thereof are gradually narrower.

Description:
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In the catamenial tampon art, and especially when considering compressed tampons which expand to a substantially rectilinear cross section from their original cylindrical or oval cross section, it is known that the absorptive capabilities are most effectively used when the tampon is positioned in the vaginal cavity immediately below the cervix with the major longitudinal and transverse planes of the expanded tampon extending substantially normal to the cervix opening. Examples of this teaching may be found in assignee's U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,068,867 of Dec. 18, 1962 and 3,196,873 of July 27, 1965 both granted to Bletzinger et al. In each of these, a tampon-applicator arrangement is shown which ensures that such placement of the tampon is properly accomplished by the user.

The present invention is directed to an improved tampon and applicator construction which provides most of the advantages set forth in the prior art and additionally provides a construction which expedites transverse expansion after the tampon is inserted in the desired position.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The absorptive tampon of this invention is comprised of absorbent material which has been compressed to a thin self-sustaining resilient sheet form. The sheet is compressed to such an extent from its normally expanded thickness that it retains a thin compacted form when dry, and rapidly reexpands to several times its compacted thickness only after being wetted. The sheet is cut into an oblong pledget of suitable size either before or after compression. Compacted sheet material of this nature has been found to be quite resilient, so that when it is folded or pleated it tends to spring back to its flat configuration unless restrained. While regenerated cellulose sponge is especially suitable for this purpose, other absorbent materials having the required characteristics may be used.

The oblong pledget, from which the folded tampon body is formed, preferably is from about 13/4 to 21/2 inches long and of approximately the same or slightly less width, with a withdrawal string affixed to the central portion of one end. In its uncompressed or expanded form the pledget may be from about 3/16 to about 5/8 inches thick, and in its self-sustaining compressed form, from about 1/16 to about 1/8 inches thick. In preparing the pledget for vaginal insertion, it is first compacted to thin, self-sustaining form, then folded longitudinally a plurality of times, and in this folded condition inserted into a tubular applicator device having a diameter of about 1/2 to 5/8 inches. The folds are arranged to form at least one longitudinal groove or valley in the folded tampon. The applicator tube in which the folded tampon is inserted has at least one internal axially extending rib which acts as an ejection guide means and which is positioned for registry with the longitudinal groove in the tampon. An interior tubular plunger portion is positioned in telescoping and slidable association with the applicator tube and preferably has an axial groove on the outer surface to cooperate with the axial rib in the applicator tube, although the axial groove in the plunger portion is not essential. The posterior end of the applicator tube has visual or tactile indicia means printed or embossed on its surface to indicate the relative radial position of the folded tampon within the tube. The relationship of the indicia means to the tampon is such that when the tampon is ejected it will expand transversely with respect to the indicia means; i.e., the indicia is immediately above the longitudinal center fold of the tampon and in essence is normal to the top planar surface of the tampon which would be formed were the tampon pledget allowed to return to its original flat form. In other words, if an imaginary line is dropped from the point where said indicia is disposed, said line will intercept said folded tampon at a point normal to the plane said tampon would assume if not restrained in its folded position, i.e., the plane which defines the transverse expansion direction of the folded tampon.

It is important that the tampon pledget in its thin flat sheet form be so resilient that when it is folded and inserted in the applicator tube it will be trying to unfold to its flat form and thus will be more or less biased in springlike fashion against the interior wall portion of the tube. This pressure exerted against the sides of the tube serves to hold the folded tampon in the tube and also ensures that it will begin to expand almost immediately after insertion in the vaginal tract where it will eventually attain its original substantially planar form. This rapid initial transverse expansion helps to prevent leakage even before fluid subsequently absorbed by the tampon body causes it to expand vertically to its original fully expanded thickness.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved directional placement tampon which expands transversely immediately after insertion to help prevent leakage.

It is another object to provide a compressed and folded tampon and a cooperating applicator for directional placement in the vaginal tract.

Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent by reference to the following specification and accompanying drawings wherein there are illustrated several selected forms of the invention

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one form of a tampon made in accordance with this invention in uncompressed or fully expanded condition.

FIG. 1a is a section taken through line 1a--1a in FIG. 1 showing the substantially rectilinear dimensions of the uncompressed tampon body.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the tampon of FIG. 1 in its compacted self-sustaining thin sheet form.

FIG. 2a is a section taken through line 2a--2a of FIG. 2.

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the compacted tampon of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of the tampon of FIG. 3 in its first folded stage.

FIG. 5 is a plan view of the tampon of FIG. 3 in its second folded stage.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a tampon and applicator assembly, with the folded tampon of FIG. 5 slidably disposed within an applicator tube and partially ejected.

FIG. 7 is a section taken through line 7--7 of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a section similar to that of FIG. 7 but showing another type of tampon fold.

FIG. 9 is a section similar to that of FIG. 7 but showing still another type of tampon fold.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

As indicated above, it is highly desirable that compressed absorbent tampons, which are substantially rectilinear in cross section before compression and after expansion, be capable of directional placement in the vaginal cavity. It is also important that immediately after insertion the compressed tampon expand as promptly as possible to a larger size from the small size necessary for insertion purposes, especially in the transverse direction. In most tampons this expansion depends primarily on release of the compressed fibers after some fluids have been absorbed by the fibers. There is a need for a tampon which will expand, at least in the transverse direction, almost immediately upon insertion without requiring that the tampon body absorb fluids first. This invention is directed to such an improved construction.

As indicated in my earlier issued tampon patent, U.S. Pat. No. 3,369,544 of Feb. 20, 1968, when regenerated cellulose sponge or like material of appreciable thickness is compressed to thin self-sustaining sheet form it has a natural resiliency, and when folded will not retain its folded form unless restrained by a wrapper or band of some sort. When the restraints holding it in folded form are removed, the folded sheet tends to return to its flat form. The tampon pledget shown in that patent is an elongated, thin and narrow sheet of compressed absorbent sponge having one or more transverse folds which reduce the elongate pledget to a shorter size of a diameter and length suitable for insertion in the vaginal tract. After insertion, the restraints holding the tampon in its folded form are released, and the tampon pledget tries to unfold in an attempt to regain its flat elongate form. This springlike action causes the faces of the outer folded segments to press against the walls of the vaginal cavity where it helps seal against fluid leakage, even before the fluid causes the sponge material itself to expand toward its original thickness from the compressed state. While this springlike expansion does tend to reduce initial leakage, the folded construction of the narrow elongate form described and shown does not lend itself well to the type of directional placement previously described herein, which is also important in preventing leakage, as well as enabling the full absorptive capabilities of the tampon to be used. The tampon, as constructed in the present invention, takes advantage of the springlike properties of the compressed sheet while permitting directional placement.

In the drawings, FIG. 1 shows in perspective, a suitable oblong tampon pledget 12 of cellulose sponge in its expanded or uncompressed form. The uncompressed or expanded pledget preferably is from 3/16 to 5/8 inches thick, and has the usual withdrawal string 13 appended to one end thereof.

In FIG. 2, the pledget 12a is shown in its self-sustaining, thin compressed form, and is about 1/16 inches thick. Compression may be done before or after cutting the pledget to shape and, if cellulose sponge is used, such compression is preferably done while the sponge is moist to prevent cell or fiber damage. The sponge must be dried, of course, while being held compressed, since it will return to its substantially uncompressed form if left damp. Once compressed and dried, the thin tampon retains its compressed form and in this condition is found to be quite resilient. When this thin pledget is folded on itself it will tend to return to its flat form unless restrained.

In assembling one form of the tampon of this invention, the thin, oblong tampon 12a shown in FIG. 3 has substantially symmetrical left and right segments 14 and 14a, which comprise about one-fourth of the transverse dimension, folded longitudinally over the face of the pledget, 12a as shown in FIG. 4, along longitudinal fold lines 15 and 15a respectively. Subsequently, the tampon body 12a is again folded on its longitudinal centerline with fold lines 15 and 15a facing upward and the faces of segments 14 and 14a in juxtaposition. This forms a longitudinally extending groove or valley 16.

The tampon in this folded condition is then inserted into the outer tube of an applicator device comprising an outer tube 17 with an inner tube 18 slidably disposed therein, as is known in the art (FIG. 6).

Outer tube 17 is provided with an axially extending rib 19, or raised portion, on its inner wall, and rib 19 is mated with groove 16 of the folded tampon, and slidably associated therewith. The association of rib and groove prevents radial shifting of the tampon with respect to the tube.

Inner tube 18 is also preferably provided with an axially extending groove 20 on its outer surface which mates with and is slidably associated with rib 19 of the outer tube. The withdrawal string of the tampon, of course, is disposed within the center of inner tube 18.

Outer tube 17 also has on its upper surface, near the posterior or rear end, indicia means or marking 23 to indicate the radial disposition of the tampon within the tube. Indicia 23 is located directly above the central longitudinal fold of the tampon. In other words, if the tampon were to be allowed to expand to its flat form in this position, an imaginary line dropped from the indicia would intercept surface 12a at a point which would be normal to the planar dimension of the flat tampon pledget. For proper directional placement of the tampon, this mark is held facing upward so that the tampon will be placed in the vaginal tract in a manner to cause it to expand in a position where the major transverse and longitudinal planes of the flat or unfolded tampon will extend normal to the cervix.

When the user inserts the applicator as indicated and ejects the tampon in place, under and adjacent to the cervix, it will immediately expand to the shape approximated in FIG. 4, and shortly thereafter will attempt to assume the flat configuration shown in FIG. 3.

The folding of the tampon pledget exemplified by FIGS. 3 through 7 results in a folded tampon body of substantially symmetrical segments. In cross section this embodiment has the form of a U with the legs of the U further folded inwardly so that the outer surface portions of the legs of the U are juxtaposed.

Other longitudinal foldings of the tampon body 12a into symmetrically opposed sections may also be used and serve a similar function.

In FIG. 8 the cross section of another folded embodiment of the tampon is shown, this time in the form of the letter M. In this embodiment, longitudinal groove 16a formed by the central fold mates with axial rib 19 of tube 17, and the outermost segments 21 and 21a of the pledget point downward and press against the walls of tube 17 with a springlike bias.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 9, there are provided double folds on either side of longitudinal groove 16b formed by the central fold which groove mates with axial rib 19 of tube 17. The outermost sections 22 and 22a point upward and also press against the walls of tube 17 with a springlike bias. The vertical pleats formed by the fold are of gradually decreasing width starting from the center pleats which approximately equal the inner diameter of the tube.

While the shape of the tampon strip shown in FIGS. 1 through 3 is in the general form of a garden spade with the withdrawal string attached to the point of the spade, other oblong shapes including elliptical, oval, keystone, or even rectangular may also be used. The particular shape as viewed in plan is not important. It is preferred however, that whatever shape be used, the end having the lesser width be attached to the withdrawal string. No matter what style or shape of pledget is used, it is preferred that the longitudinal folds be arranged to divide the tampon on either side of its longitudinal center into symmetrical segments in order that the transverse force exerted by the springlike bias in each direction during expansion be substantially equal. Spirally winding or convolutely gathering the tampon instead of folding, is not satisfactory, since such configurations would not provide the necessary and desired transverse expansion. In addition, it is important that the folds provide at least one longitudinal groove in the outer perimeter of the folded tampon and that such groove be adapted to mate in slidable association with an axial rib or similar raised guide means in the applicator tube, thus insuring that the tampon does not rotate within the tube during production and storage and that it will always be properly directionally oriented before and during ejection.

The applicator tube may be of conventional construction, of which paperboard and plastic are now commonly used. Instead of having an axially extending rib as the guide means, the latter may include a series of raised dots, protuberances or the like.

Throughout this specification, reference has been made to the use of cellulose sponge as the preferred absorbent material. Other materials may be used which have characteristics similar to cellulose sponge, i.e., a suitable material must be one which after compression remains resilient and self-sustaining in its compact form when dry; it must be of a type which when folded in its compact state tends to spring back to unfolded form when unrestrained; it must have high absorptive capacity for fluids; and it must have the ability to readily expand within restricting body cavities to several times its compact thickness as fluids are absorbed therein. Sponges other than cellulose or regenerated cellulose may be used, including natural sponges and synthetic sponges such as vinyl sponges made from vinyl alcohol, vinyl chloride and copolymers, etc. One example of the latter is a polyvinyl formal sponge in which from 35 to 80 percent of the hydroxyl groups of the alcohol have been reacted. A sponge of this type is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,659,935.

In addition to absorbent sponge material, various combinations of absorbent and nonabsorbent synthetic fibers and absorbent natural fibers may be used. Such combinations are described in U.S. Pat. No. 2,761,449, which patent has the same assignee as this invention. In general, absorbent materials containing from 3 to 20 percent nonabsorbent resilient fibers are satisfactory. In accordance with an example described in the latter patent, a suitable combination for use as the compressed strip in this invention may comprise about 3 to 20 percent by weight nonabsorbent, synthetic, resilient fibers having lengths in the range of about 3/4 to about 21/2 inches and a denier within the range of about 3 to 20, the remainder of the body comprising absorbent fibers such as cotton linters, or bleached absorbent wood pulp fibers sometimes known as fluff, or both of said materials, the length of which fibers are generally less than 3/16 inch.