Just Passing Gas | “Buzzy” mitigates procedural pain
Amy Baxter MD is one smart pediatrician. She was originally trained as an emergency room pediatrician, and now she’s a successful inventor and entrepreneur. In residency and fellowship, she was interested in the management of “pain and suffering” and her research involved using topical medications to reduce pain associated with lumbar puncture. As she relates in the videos (Part 1 and Part 2), she was driving home following an ER shift one night, traveling along a bumpy road. The vibrations transmitted to the steering wheel made her hands go numb, and she serendipitously realized that vibration could be used to reduce the pain associated with needle sticks. She also discovered that vibration combined with cold was more effective than either modality alone. Over the next 5 years, Dr. Baxter worked with her husband (a pediatric psychiatrist), to develop the Buzzy device that reduces the pain associated with many medical procedures including, but not limited to, IV starts and vaccinations.
It was a long road of experimentation and discovery. Dr. Baxter spent many hours disassembling “personal massagers” (aka “sex toys”) to determine which foreign-made motor could be used for the Buzzy device. She determined that only vibrations of a certain frequency would block pain transmission from peripheral nerves. Years were spent designing and testing the Buzzy, finding a manufacturer and seeking FDA marketing approval. Nearly five years after her “Eureka” moment described above on May 1, 2009 the Buzzy was released. Now almost 12 years later, Dr. Baxter’s company, Pain Care Labs, has sold more than 250,000 Buzzys globally, and over 35 million shots have been given using the device.
No small achievement
Providers are sensitive to the needs of children who undergo injections and painful procedures. It takes a caring and patient provider to make a child’s experience in a physician office or surgical suite a positive one. Many children who receive 4 or more vaccinations at a well child visit and become needle phobic. As a consequence, many well visits (especially those involving vaccinations) are distressing experiences for child, parent and provider. Many adults have needle phobia as well.
The Buzzy changes all this. I use it regularly in my pediatric practice and you should consider using it in patients of all ages. There are several Buzzy devices that range in price from $44.95 to $99.95 dollars. These differ in features, with some intended for home use and others for use in a healthcare environment (see https://buzzyhelps.com/pages/compare). A reusable cold pack is attached to the Buzzy, the vibrations turned on by flipping a switch, and the unit is placed proximal to the IV start location while the needle/catheter is inserted. For subcutaneous injections the Buzzy is placed over the site of the injection for 30 seconds to 2 minutes (depending on the medication being administered), moved proximally, and the injection given at the site where the Buzzy was originally located. There are many subtleties regarding using the Buzzy which Dr. Baxter details in the second video. For optimal use one needs to understand the innervation of the body area where the procedure or injection will occur. One can also use distraction techniques (also detailed in the video) to reduce the “fear” component of needle phobia.
More recently, Dr. Baxter introduced a device based on her previous discoveries. Pain Care Labs is marketing the Buzzy VibraCool Massaging Ice Therapy System for use by individuals with neck, shoulder, wrist, and knee pain. The system combines a Buzzy device with a Neoprene compression strap to achieve effective pain relief while treating inflammation. In one study, VibraCool was shown to be four times as effective as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for back and shoulder pain, and twice as effective for osteoarthritis. A study on opioid use following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) found patients using VibraCool had a 35 percent reduction in post-operative opioid medication use.
Undoubtedly, Dr. Baxter will continue to innovate and develop new products that will facilitate medical procedures and reduce the pain associated with arthritis and injuries. When she does, I be among the first to review these devices and share my impressions with the visitors to this web site.
Andrew J. Schuman, MD, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Darmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and has been in pediatric practice for over 36 years. He is presently on the Editorial Advisory Board of Contemporary Pediatrics, for which he has written about medical technology and practice improvement for 30 years. He is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Sections on Practice Management, Telehealth, Computers and Information Technology, as well as AAP’s Section on Advances in Therapeutics and Technology. He is Founder and CEO of MedGizmos.com, where he regularly writes about and reviews medical devices and software for the healthcare provider community.