Design and preliminary analysis of a vaginal inserter for speculum-free cervical cancer screening
Abstract: Cervical cancer screening usually requires use of a speculum to provide a clear view of the cervix. The speculum is one potential barrier to screening due to fear of pain, discomfort and embarrassment. The aim of this paper is to present and demonstrate the feasibility of a tampon-sized inserter and the POCkeT Colposcope, a miniature pen sized-colposcope, for comfortable, speculum-free and potentially self-colposcopy. Study Design: We explored different designs using 3D CAD software and performed mechanical testing simulations on each. Designs were rapid prototyped and tested using a custom vaginal phantom across a range of vaginal pressures and uterine tilts to select an optimal design. Two final designs were tested with fifteen volunteers to assess cervix visualization, comfort and usability compared to the speculum and the optimal design, the curved-tip inserter, was selected for testing in volunteers. Results: We present a vaginal inserter as an alternative to the standard speculum for use with the POCkeT Colposcope. The device has a slim tubular body with a funnel-like curved tip measuring approximately 2.5 cm in diameter. The inserter has a channel through which a 2MP mini USB camera with LED illumination fits to enable image capture. Mechanical finite element testing simulations with an applied pressure of 15 cm H2O indicated a high factor of safety (90.9) for the inserter. Testing of the device with a custom vaginal phantom, across a range of supine vaginal pressures and uterine tilts (retroverted, anteverted and sideverted), demonstrated image capture with a visual area comparable to the speculum for a normal/axial positioned uteri and significantly better than the speculum for anteverted and sideverted uteri (p<0.00001). Volunteer studies with self-insertion and physician-assisted cervix image capture showed adequate cervix visualization for 83% of patients. In addition, questionnaire responses from volunteers indicated a 92.3% overall preference for the inserter over the speculum and all indicated that the inserter was more comfortable than the speculum. The inserter provides a platform for self-cervical cancer screening and also enables acetic acid/Lugol's iodine application and insertion of swabs for Pap smear sample collection. Conclusion: This study demonstrates the feasibility of an inserter and miniature-imaging device for comfortable cervical image capture of women with potential for synergistic HPV and Pap smear sample collection.