Abscess Packing Device

Project Background

This project was built on a patent filed by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. (UCMC) The project had been explored by several classes of biomedical engineering students before it was transferred to the internal industrial designer at the Medical Device Engine (MDE), a medical device development startup housed within the Emergency Medicine Department from 2012 - 2014. 

Product Opportunity

The opportunity for this project was to reduce the time and difficulty associated with packing a large abscess by developing a mechanism that could deliver a stream of packing tape (Curad, 3M, et al.) into the wound. As shown in the sequence below, after incising the abscess, the current method makes use of a hemostat to break up loculations and push tape into the opening. The process is difficult and time consuming and represents a drain on the hospital, because this non-life-threatening condition is often treated in the ED.

Project Details

The project unfolded in two stages. The first stage began before a cost target was determined and provided a solution that far exceeded the material needs of the procedure as well as the cost available for this portion of it. The second version was redesigned once a cost target was established. This vastly streamlined version of the device was inspired by a white-out tape dispenser and represented a massive reduction in cost and complexity. 

Version 1 ($9.02)

In the first version of the device (shown in the video above), I designed a unit that would dispense tape slowly and at a controlled, variable rate. A sliding, color-coded tab was pulled backward to arm the device. Material was dispensed by pulling back on an ambidextrous lever atop the unit. The unit incorporated much more tape than would ever be used in an average procedure.

Abscess Packer Wireframe (2).jpg

Version 2 ($.82)

The second version of the device represented a massive reduction in cost and complexity made possible by the establishment of some key requirements that had been missing from the previous effort and based on the new knowledge gained during that effort.

I finally established a cost target for the device by uncovering the cost of a DIY abscess-packing kit assembled by ED staff. The total kit cost was just $6.68/unit, so the $9.02/unit cost of the first design was far over target. Through inquiries with ED staff, I also determined that I could reduce the amount of tape in the device (and plan to use multiple devices to pack the rare, enormous abscess).

The new device was inspired by a white out tape dispenser and designed using a similar low cost, snap-together injection-molded housing. The dispensing action was made possible by a constant force spring similar to that found in cheap badge reels (shown at right, in exploded view). Braking force was applied using a molded trigger (acting as a drum brake). The device was to be offered in two versions (1ft & 3ft), each designed for single use. The design could accommodate a pre-armed (with lockout) or wind-to-arm version, to-be-determined after user testing.