The SMTL have previously published results of surveys and laboratory testing on the issues surrounding the inadequate reprocessing of Reusable Vaginal Speculum in the Primary Care centres such as GP practices. Disturbing reprocessing practices were revealed in some surgeries, including some practices completely ignoring MDA advice.
In recent years there has been a move towards disposable vaginal speculums due to the issues highlighted in the SMTL report. One rare but inconvenient problem with plastic devices was that they would occassionally break in use. However, as long as the point of failure is outside the patient, then apart from a slight shock from the noise of the break, there are usually no adverse consequences. Conversely, if the bill breaks inside the patient, then sharp shards of plastic can potentially cause trauma to the vaginal walls.
SMTL have developed a test method to assess whether a speculum has been designed to break in a safe manner. This method has been fully validated and is now included on our UKAS accredited schedule.
In this test, the vaginal speculum is locked in its open working position and then placed into a foam retention jig. The jig is then positioned onto the lower compression plate of a tensometer. The upper compression plate is moved down onto the upper bill of the speculum and an increasing compressive force is applied until the speculum breaks.
The position of the break points and the force at the break is then recorded.
If you wish to commission testing of your disposable speculums so that you can demonstrate they fail in a safe mode, then contact the SMTL:
Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory, Princess of Wales Hospital, Coity Road, Bridgend, UK, CF31 1RQ.
Tel: +44 (0) 1656 752820