Title:
Suspended structure for handling medical equipment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The structure is suspended from the ceiling of a room in a hospital or a clinic and includes a substantially vertical arm adapted to support medical equipment such as a cart above the floor. For this purpose, the structure has a support column for supporting the medical equipment, the column being connected to the vertical arm, and an intermediate support on which said medical equipment is loaded and which is hinged to the column and forms an external cover therefor. The structure also has means for adjusting the position of the intermediate support relative to the column so as to correct departures of the on-board equipment from the horizontal.



Inventors:
Marchese, Christophe (Beaugency, FR)
Application Number:
10/418171
Publication Date:
10/23/2003
Filing Date:
04/18/2003
Assignee:
ALM (Ardon, FR)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61B19/02; A61B19/00; A61G13/00; A61B17/00; (IPC1-7): A47K1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080164185Clamp for Mixed Mail SorterJuly, 2008Stemmle
20040245423Table ringDecember, 2004Harned G. C.
20050012014Sheet music stand helperJanuary, 2005Willner et al.
20070102598Vehicle hub supportMay, 2007Nichols
20050121594Support stand for a tablet PCJune, 2005Kuo
20080105810Longitudinal adjustment mechanism for seats, particularly in motor vehiclesMay, 2008Hofschulte et al.
20090152431LOCKING AND LIFTING MECHANISM FOR SAFETY FENCE SUPPORT POSTJune, 2009Melic
20080093521Clamp for use in wire harnessApril, 2008Doi et al.
20040194418Universal supportive suspension poleOctober, 2004Gouley
20070163912Shifting rail in a package of disposable shoe coversJuly, 2007Chen
20030090904Adjustable height stand with cam-leverMay, 2003Ching



Primary Examiner:
RAMIREZ, RAMON O
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON & VANDERHYE, PC (ARLINGTON, VA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. / A suspended structure for handling medial equipment, the structure comprising at least one substantially vertical arm adapted to hold the medical equipment above the floor, the structure comprising a support column for supporting the medical equipment, the column being connected to the vertical arm, an intermediate support on which said medical equipment is loaded and which is hinged to the column and forms an external cover therefor, and means for adjusting the position of the intermediate support relative to the column.

2. / A structure according to claim 1, wherein the adjustment means comprise at least one moving element that is movable relative to the column and that bears against the intermediate support, the or each moving element being adapted to cause the intermediate support to tilt about its hinge axis relative to the column.

3. / A structure according to claim 2, wherein the or each moving element is constituted by the rod of a jack connected to the column.

4. / A structure according to claim 2, wherein the or each moving element is a lever hinged relative to the column, and wherein the adjustment means comprise an actuator connected to the column and adapted to cause the or each lever to pivot about its hinge axis relative to the column.

5. / A structure according to claim 1, wherein the column is connected to the vertical arm in such a manner as to be movable in a substantially vertical direction relative to said arm.

6. / A structure according to claim 1, wherein the adjustment means are disposed substantially entirely inside the column.

7. / A structure according to claim 1, wherein the adjustment means comprise a jack hinged to an inside face of the column, at least one lever hinged to said inside face of the column and connected to the end of a rod of the jack, and at least one bearing surface connected to said lever and projecting through a through opening provided in the column so as to act on the cover of the intermediate support.

8. / A structure according to claim 7, wherein said bearing surface is formed by a wheel mounted to turn freely on the corresponding lever.

9. / A structure according to claim 1, including a control unit for controlling the adjustment means, the control unit being connected to said adjustment means and being adapted to modify the position of the intermediate support relative to the column as a function of instructions from the user, of a pre-established adjustment stored by the control unit, and/or of signals representative of an angle formed between the vertical and an axis secured relative to the adjustment means.

10. / A structure according to claim 9, wherein said signals are provided by an angle sensor fixed to the adjustment means.

Description:
[0001] The present invention relates to a suspended structure for handling medical equipment, this structure comprising at least one substantially vertical arm adapted to support the medical equipment above the floor.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The invention applies in particular to the field of articulated suspended structures for use in operating theaters or medical treatment rooms for supporting medical hardware and/or apparatuses for assisting the practitioner or the patient. For reasons of size and for cleaning reasons, this kind of hardware is generally suspended above the floor by means of easily-maneuverable articulated arms so as to make it possible to position the medical equipment in the manner that is the most convenient possible relative to the patient, the act in question, the number of practitioners involved, etc.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] That type of articulated structure needs to support a heavy weight at its free end(s), which means that the arm deflects to the side where the medical hardware rests, i.e. down towards the user of the hardware. This deflecting of the structure does not in itself lead to any particular mechanical risk since the materials used to build the suspended structure are dimensioned so as to be capable of supporting the loads involved quite safely.

[0004] Nevertheless, such deflection induces a certain amount of apprehension in users, since they have the impression that the structure is coming down on top of them. In addition, when the structure supports a work surface or a cart constituting a chest of drawers, the deflection that occurs can be such that any instruments of round shape that are placed on the work surface slide or roll towards the user and/or the drawers open of their own accord.

[0005] Contrivances have been proposed in the past for overcoming such loss of horizontally in the on-board medical equipment. In general they are in the form of a wedge placed either between the support assembly and the on-board equipment, or else between the vertical arm and the support assembly before it is connected with the arm. By inserting this wedge before the structure is loaded, it is possible to predetermine an angular offset for the support assembly relative to its position prior to putting the wedge into place. Nevertheless, when the arm is in use, i.e. as soon as the distribution of the weight of the equipment relative to the arm varies and/or as soon as the shape of the articulated suspended structure is modified, then the on-board equipment ceases to be horizontal.

OBJECT AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The object of the present invention is to propose an articulated structure, in which the loss in horizontally of the on-board equipment due to the structure deflecting in operation is corrected, at least in part, so as to provide greater comfort in use than is the case with present structures.

[0007] For this purpose, the invention provides a structure which further comprises a support column for supporting the medical equipment, the column being connected to the vertical arm, an intermediate support on which said medical equipment is loaded and which is hinged to the column and forms an external cover therefor, and means for adjusting the position of the intermediate support relative to the column.

[0008] According to other characteristics of this structure, taken individually or in any technically feasible combination:

[0009] the adjustment means comprise at least one moving element that is movable relative to the column and that bears against the intermediate support, the or each moving element being adapted to cause the intermediate support to tilt about its hinge axis relative to the column;

[0010] the or each moving element is constituted by the rod of a jack connected to the column;

[0011] the or each moving element is a lever hinged relative to the column, and the adjustment means comprise an actuator connected to the column and adapted to cause the or each lever to pivot about its hinge axis relative to the vertical arm;

[0012] the column is connected to the vertical arm in such a manner as to be movable in a substantially vertical direction relative to said arm;

[0013] the adjustment means are disposed substantially entirely inside the column;

[0014] the adjustment means comprise a jack hinged to an inside face of the column, at least one lever hinged to said inside face of the column and connected to the end of a rod of the jack, and at least one bearing surface connected to said lever and projecting through a through opening provided in the column so as to act on the cover of the intermediate support;

[0015] said bearing surface is formed by a wheel mounted to turn freely on the corresponding lever;

[0016] the structure includes a control unit for controlling the adjustment means, the control unit being connected to said adjustment means and being adapted to modify the position of the intermediate support relative to the column as a function of instructions from the user, of a pre-established adjustment stored by the control unit, and/or of signals representative of an angle formed between the vertical and an axis secured relative to the adjustment means; and

[0017] the signals are provided by an angle sensor fixed to the adjustment means.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] The invention will be better understood on reading the following description given purely by way of example and made with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a suspended structure of the invention supporting a piece of medical equipment;

[0020] FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic elevation view partially in section of the structure and the equipment of FIG. 1;

[0021] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the inclination-adjustment means belonging to the structure of FIG. 1; and

[0022] FIG. 4 is an elevation view on a larger scale showing a detail in circle IV in FIG. 2.

MORE DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0023] FIG. 1 shows a suspended structure 1 supporting a medical cart 2. This cart comprises an outer cabinet 3 provided with a plurality of shelves 4 carrying medical appliances 5, for example a monitor and an appliance for providing breathing assistance. The cabinet 3 also carries a front-opening drawer 6. The cart 2 also has castors 7 connected to the cabinet 3 via supports 8 swivel-mounted to the cabinet about substantially vertical axes and carrying the axles of the castors 7.

[0024] The cart 2 is thus adapted to be moved on the floor S by means of its castors. Nevertheless, when the appliances 5 of the cart need to be used while taking medical action, it is preferable for the cart 2 to be placed above the floor, being supported by the structure 1, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Lifted off the floor in this way, the cart 2 no longer gets in the way of cleaning the floor, the electricity and/or fluid feeds for the appliances 5 no longer extend over the floor, and it is more convenient to use the structure 1 than the castors 7 for moving the cart, as explained below.

[0025] The structure 1 comprises a top anchor 10 fixed to the ceiling of a room in a hospital or a clinic, two substantially horizontal arms 12 and 14, a substantially vertical arm 19 of axis X-X, and angled connections 18 connecting together in articulated manner respectively the anchor 10 and the first horizontal arm 12, the first and second horizontal arms 12 and 14, and the second arm 14 and the vertical arm 16.

[0026] The angled connections 18 are known per se, and each enables one of the two interconnected elements to be turned relative to the other about a substantially vertical axis defined by the vertical portion of the connection. Some of the connections 18 include respective members 16 for blocking the elements relative to each other so as to lock the structure 1 in shape once the articulated elements of the structure are positioned as desired by the user.

[0027] Below, the “front” side of the arm 16 is considered as being the side of the arm where the cart 2 is situated when it is held above the floor by the structure 1 (to the right in FIG. 2), while the “rear” side is considered as being the opposite side (to the left in FIG. 2).

[0028] A column 20 is mounted on the vertical arm 16 and has a longitudinal axis coinciding with the axis X-X of the arm, and the bottom portion of the column 20 supports the cart 2, as described in detail below. When the column 20 is carrying the cart 2, the axis X-X becomes inclined relative to the vertical, e.g. by a few degrees, as shown in FIG. 2.

[0029] The column 20 has an outer structure 22 that is substantially in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped. An opening 24 is provided at the top of this structure for receiving the vertical arm 16, said opening being lined internally by a wiping gasket 26.

[0030] The column 20 is movable substantially vertically relative to the arm 16 by means of an actuator in the form of a mechanical jack 28 having an electric motor, which jack is connected in hinged manner both to the arm 16 and to the structure 22. More precisely, the rod 28 of the jack is hinged relative to the arm 16 about a substantially horizontal pin 32 and is carried by a clevis 34 secured to the free end of the arm 16. The body of the actuator 28 is hinged relative to the structure 22 about a pin 36 parallel to the pin 32 and received in a clevis 38 fixed to the inside face of one of the walls of the structure 22.

[0031] The bottom end of the column 20 is provided with an intermediate support 40 on which the cart 2 is loaded. This intermediate support comprises firstly a rigid cover 42 of longitudinal axis Y-Y and connected to the column 20 in hinged manner about an axis 44 extending transversely relative to the arm. The inside width of the cover 42 is slightly greater than the outside width of the structure 22 of the column 20 so that the cover overlies the outside of the entire bottom front portion of the column. The cover is connected to the structure 22 by means of rods 46 forming hinge pins on the axis 44, and leaving clearance, e.g. of a few millimeters, between the side wall 22A and the bottom wall 22B of the structure 22 and the cover so as to leave the cover free to move relative to the column when it tilts about the axis 44.

[0032] The intermediate support 40 also comprises a rigid plate 48 (FIG. 2) secured to the cover 42 and designed to co-operate with a rear recess 50 formed in the cabinet 3 of the cart 2. The plate 48 projects from the front face of the cover 42, for example being mounted on screws received in holes 52 formed in the cover (FIG. 3). The top face 54 of the plate 48 is adapted to bear against an associated plane surface 56 defined by the rear recess 50 in the cart 2. One or more pegs 58 project substantially perpendicularly from the top face 54 of the plate 48. These pegs are generally upwardly tapering and they are adapted to be received in substantially complementary sockets 60 formed at the rear of the cart 2 and opening out into the recesses 50, as shown diagrammatically in FIG. 2.

[0033] The structure 1 is also provided with means 66 for adjusting the position of the intermediate support 40 relative to the column 20. These means 66 are adapted to cause the support 40 to tilt about its hinge axis 44, which amounts to offsetting the axis Y-Y of the support angularly relative to the axis X-X of the column, so as to compensate for the offset in the opposite direction between said axis X-X and the vertical, as mentioned above.

[0034] The adjustment means 66 shown in detail in FIG. 3 are disposed functionally between the structure 22 of the column 20 and the cover 42 of the intermediate support 40. These means comprise an actuator in the form of an electrically-driven jack 68 and a pair of levers 70 of substantially triangular shape.

[0035] More precisely, the body of the electric jack 68 is hinged relative to the column 20 about a pin of substantially horizontal axis 72 and carried by a clevis 74 secured to the front wall 22A of the structure 22. The rod of the jack 68 extends substantially vertically and is hinged to a first vertex of the triangular levers 70 about an axis 76 parallel to the axis 72, a second vertex of these levers being hinged relative to the column 20 about an axis 78 parallel to the axis 72 and carried by a clevis 80 secured to the front wall 22A of the structure 22. Each lever also has a wheel 82 mounted to turn freely about a substantially horizontal axis 84 and situated at the third vertex of the lever. These wheels 82 project through a substantially rectangular opening 84 formed in the front wall 22A and are pressed against the rear face of the cover 42 so as to roll thereon.

[0036] The means 66 also include an angle sensor 86, e.g. a device sold as an acceleration sensor by the supplier Bosch (under the reference 0265005109) which is capable of determining electronically the magnitude of the angle formed between a predefined axis Z-Z secured to the sensor and the vertical V-V. By way of example, the sensor 86 is secured to one of the levers 70.

[0037] The structure 1 also comprises a unit 90 for controlling the column 20 and shown diagrammatically only in FIG. 2. This unit is connected, e.g. by means of electrical conductors that are not shown, to the jacks 28 and 68 so as to control extension and retraction of their respective rods.

[0038] The unit 90 is also connected to the angle sensor 86 which continuously supplies the unit 90 with the magnitude of the angle θ between its own axis Z-Z and the vertical V-V. The unit 90 is suitable for performing a pre-established computation stored in said unit, for determining the amount of tilt that needs to be applied to the support 40 in order to ensure that the cart 2 is substantially horizontal, as explained below.

[0039] For the column 20 shown in FIG. 2, the unit 90 is received in an opening provided in the rear wall 22C of the structure 22 and presenting on its rear side a panel 92 for inputting instructions to control the column. In addition to or as a replacement for the control panel 92, a remote control 94 on a wire lead is provided. This remote control has a hook for securing it to the column and is connected to the unit 90 by a wire 96. Insofar as the remote control 94 and the control panel 92 are functionally analogous, only the arrangement of the remote control 94 is described in detail below, it being understood that the panel 92 presents substantially the same elements.

[0040] As shown better in FIG. 4, the remote control 94 has two buttons 98A and 98B for controlling vertical displacement of the column 20, two buttons 100A, 100B for controlling titling of the support 40 relative to the column 20, and a slider 102 movable between three positions marked respectively “.”, “..”, and “...”, which positions correspond to different modes of operation for the adjustment means 66 as described below.

[0041] The suspended structure 1 operates as follows.

[0042] Initially, the cart 2 is standing on the floor S and is picked up by the column 20 by moving the column vertically relative to the arm 16. By initially placing the plate 48 with the pegs in the rear recess 50 of the cart, and then actuating the jack 28 to move the column 20 substantially vertically upwards, the pegs 58 penetrate into the sockets 60 formed in the rear of the cart 2. The tapering surfaces of the pegs and of the sockets co-operate to ensure that the cart is correctly positioned relative to the intermediate support 40 which is then lifted.

[0043] As a function of the weight and the distribution of loads 5 carried by the cart 2, and also as a function of the relative disposition of the articulated elements 10, 12, 14, and 16 of the structure 1, the bottom portion of the column 20 becomes deflected rearwards to a greater or lesser extent, as explained in the introduction. The adjustment means 66 are then operated to compensate for the offset between the axis X-X of the column relative to the vertical by moving the intermediate support 40 in the opposite direction relative to the column.

[0044] In a first implementation of these means (slider 102 on position “.”), the buttons 100A and 100B are used to cause the rod of the jack 68 to be extended and retracted. When the user presses the button 100A, the unit 90 causes the jack 68 to extend its rod out from the body of the jack. The levers 80 then pivot about the hinge axis 78 so that the wheels 82 describe a circular arc centered on the axis 78 and press against and run along the rear face of the cover 42. This thrust from the wheels causes the cover to tilt relative to the structure 22 of the column 20 about the hinge axis 44. The longitudinal axis Y-Y of the support 40 then tilts about the axis 44 (in the counterclockwise direction in FIG. 2), thereby causing the cart 2 to be displaced angularly upwards with the same movement. The user continues to press on the button 100A until the cart 2 is judged to be horizontal. This setting can be corrected by pressing the button 100B which has the opposite function to the button 100A, thereby enabling the horizontal position of the cart to be adjusted. This first mode of implementation can be considered as being under manual control.

[0045] A second implementation of the adjustment means 66 (slider 102 on the position “..”) consists in leaving it to the unit 90 to apply a pre-established amount of tilt to the intermediate support 40 relative to the column 20 as soon as the column has stopped rising. The pre-established tilt is recorded in a memory zone of the unit 90, e.g. during initial installation of the suspended structure 1, and it is determined while taking into account the type of structure, the recommended nominal load, and a standard position for the articulated elements of the structure 1. Once the pre-established correction has been applied, the user can advantageously make use of the buttons 100A and 100B in the same manner as in the first mode of operation. This second mode can thus be considered as being under semiautomatic control.

[0046] A third implementation of the adjustment means 66 (slider 102 in the position “...”) consists in leaving it to the unit 90 to determine the tilt that is to be applied to the support, making use of the signals provided by the angle sensor 86. Firstly, the magnitude of the angle θ between the axis Z-Z of the sensor and the vertical V-V is measured by the sensor 86. Thereafter, the unit 90 applies a pre-established formula, e.g. obtained during prior calibration, relating the position of the axis Z-Z with the position of the axis Y-Y of the intermediate support 40 (e.g. making use of the axis X-X of the column as a reference axis). The unit 90 can then determine on a continuous basis the magnitude of the angle between the axis Y-Y and the vertical, and thus actuate the jack 68 so as to make this angle equal to a target value (e.g. 0°) so as to ensure that the cart is horizontal. This third implementation can thus be considered as being under automatic control.

[0047] Regardless of the mode in which the adjustment means 66 are operated, the suspended structure of the invention makes it possible quickly and easily to modify the inclination of the medical equipment supported by the structure. Using the jack 68 provides a high degree of flexibility in use without requiring any effort on the part of the user, and regardless of the weight carried and the position of the articulated elements of the structure.

[0048] In a variant that is not shown, the adjustment means 66 comprise two systems of levers, adapted to offset the axis of the support 40 relative to the axis of the column in two vertical planes (and not just in one plane as in the example described above). As a result, the shelves 4 of the cart 2 can be positioned parallel to a horizontal plane.

[0049] Various arrangements can be envisaged for the suspended structure of the invention. Thus, for example:

[0050] the pegs 58 may be replaced by forks extending perpendicularly to the front wall of the hinged cover 42 and co-operating with the bottom face of the cart 2;

[0051] the wheels 82 may be replaced by low friction skids designed to act in substantially the same manner as the wheels and to form bearing surfaces for the levers against the intermediate support 40; and/or

[0052] the assembly comprising the jack 68 and the levers 70 may be replaced by a jack connected to the column and having a rod that extends substantially horizontally and that is provided at its end with wheels or skids that press against the intermediate support 40.