Clinical Need

What is a speculum and why is there a need?

Obstrecians and gynecologists perform vaginal examinations and PAP smears for their female patients at various hospitals and clinics throughtout the United States. These PAP smears are cervical cancer screening procedures that require the use of a vaginal speculum, an instrument that is inserted into the patient to open up their vaginal walls, and enable the health professional to obtain skin samples. Cervical Cancer is the 10th leading cause of cancer-related death for women in the United States. PAP exams can early diagnose and prevent cervical cancer.

The United States market for the PAP test is about 55 million tests per year, since 93% of American women go through this procedure at least once at their gynecologist visit. However this medical instrument is not limited to Pap smears. Speculums are used for other medical procedures as well such as IUD insertions, STD testing, and hysterectomies. However, the current vaginal speculum was designed centuries ago and utilizes a very outdated mechanism, that renders it difficult to utilize for the health professionals as well as uncomfortable for patients. These issues often prevent women from participating in these critical examinations, hence making it difficult to diagnose medical conditions.

Problems for patients and physicians

Patient Discomfort

Over 90% of the women we surveyed described their experience involving speculums as “uncomfortable”.

Uneven pressure and pinching of the vaginal wall plague many women’s experiences, leading to pain and damage. This discomfort can lead to women delaying their necessary gynecological examinations, and put them at risk of various diseases such as cervical infection or cancer.

Physician Inconvinience

The current vaginal speculum is extremely inefficient because of the “trial and error” physicians go through to try to select the appropriate speculum size for each patient. Physicians often start out on the smallest size and move up in size as necessary, wasting up to one or two speculums each procedure and taking more time to perform the procedure.

Physicians must also take extra caution with patients with high BMIs or loose tissue because the extra vaginal wall tissue can get caught between the bills of the speculum and lead to pain or even tearing and extended procedure times. Many physicians resort to make-shift setups using condoms as a sheath or utilizing popsicle-stick-like instruments to compress the excess tissue.