The Truth About Metal Speculums

The tools gynecologists use to examine a patient during a pelvic exam can influence both the physician and patient experience. The metal speculum, one of history’s longest surviving medical devices, seems to still be present within gynecology; however, it does come with its lasting impacts on modern medicine. At a glance, the metal speculum seems like a harmless medical device, but the antiquated tool may be causing gynecologist offices more problems than you would think.

The History of the Metal Speculum

According to the HISTORY channel, the original vaginal speculum was created during the 1800s by a man named James Marion Sims. The speculum was described as having two pewter, or metal, blades to separate the patient’s vaginal walls. In addition, it was able to open and close with a small screw mechanism. He used the invention to explore the first gynecological examination techniqes and surgical procedures, but unethically experimented on slave women. As Wired put it, “so to say that the [original] speculum was not designed with patient comfort in mind would be an egregious understatement.”

Over 150 years later, the metal vaginal speculum has not seen many drastic changes. Notably, metal speculums are only now fashioned in surgical stainless steel rather than pewter. Today, a metal speculum is still used by some practices.

The Metal Speculum Today

The metal vaginal speculum boasts reusability and a seemingly lower cost-per-use; although, that is not the case. In reality, it has a higher cost-per-use compared to other multi-use components because of sterilization costs. Committing to using a metal vaginal speculum throughout your practice means you will commit to the purchase of an autoclave, disinfectant costs, staff training costs, equipment testing costs, bookkeeping costs, and miscellaneous inventory costs. The cost breakdown of using reusable speculums can run up to tens of thousands of dollars annually.

When medical practices use a metal speculum, they are also exposing their patients and their staff members to potential cross contamination. Because of its intricate design, the metal vaginal speculum can hide biological debris within its small crevices. Sterilization alone may not be enough to ensure the reusable speculum is completely rid of harmful pathogens.

Medical devices have come a long way since the days of the first vaginal metal speculum. More specifically, Cyalume Medical is paving the way for modern medicine with its single-use, illuminated vaginal speculum: SpecuLume EZ. This plastic, environmentally friendly, and patient-safe speculum provides numerous benefits to optimize the physician and patient experience during a pelvic exam. For more information regarding SpecuLume EZ, contact Cyalume Medical. Cyalume Medical: Patient care in a new light.