Researchers optimize cervix visualization for pelvic exams

11/16/2023 Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Current and former medical students in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, where MechSE Prof. Amy Wagoner Johnson is Head of the Department of Biomedical and Translational Science, have published a study on the effectiveness of the tools used during pelvic exams.

Written by Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

In a new study, doctors in training and researchers have studied a pelvic exam model to create a guide for the best tools that can be used.  

Routine pelvic exams are carried out using a speculum, which has a handle and two blades. The upper and lower blades pull back the front and back vaginal walls respectively. However, there is no mechanism to pull back the lateral walls, which causes them to bulge inward. Unfortunately, this complication can cause more patient discomfort during the exam and can lead to misdiagnosis. 

Currently, physicians repurpose gloves or condoms to act as a covering around the speculum. Even so, no peer-reviewed articles have compared these two approaches. The researchers used a blood-pressure cuff to test how much pressure a speculum could withstand before collapsing. They covered it with either a glove or a condom and collected images to see which sheath was more effective in preventing collapse. 

“We were surprised to find that in our experiment condoms were not useful, which doesn’t mean that it can’t be useful in clinics. However, nitrile gloves were the best; they could prevent collapse without restricting the speculum movement,” Palsgaard said. 

“These gloves are always present in the exam room and are a part of everyday practice—so this simple solution is accessible in any clinical setting,” said Amy Wagoner Johnson, MechSE Professor and Head of the Department of Biomedical and Translational Science at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. 

Read the entire story on the Illinois IGB website >>

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This story was published November 16, 2023.