US 20060211999 A1
A soft grip medical connector comprises a housing with an upstream end, a downstream end and a lumen extending through a central portion thereof. A flexible member comprises a valve portion integrally formed with a sleeve portion. The valve portion is positioned within a section of the housing and is configured to control a flow of fluid through the housing lumen. The sleeve is inverted to envelope at least a portion of the outer surface of the housing. In some embodiments the gripping portion is integrally formed with the valve portion. In some embodiments, the connector is also generally configured to create a positive pressure in a catheter lumen upon removal of a syringe or other medical device from the upstream end of the connector. Methods of making a medical fluid connector generally comprise forming a valve member with a sleeve extending there from, and assembling the valve, sleeve and housing.
1. A medical connector comprising:
a housing, the housing having an upstream end, a downstream end, an outer surface, and a lumen extending through a central portion thereof; and
a flexible member, the flexible member comprising:
a seal element, at least a substantial portion of the seal element being positioned within the housing, the seal element configured to receive a medical device and to control a flow of fluid through the housing lumen; and
a sleeve defining a gripping region on the housing, and the sleeve adhered to a portion of the outer surface of the housing;
wherein the housing comprises at least one ring section extending radially outwards from the outer surface of the housing and wherein the gripping portion includes at least one protrusion engaged with the ring section to retain the gripping portion on the housing.
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/267,822, filed Nov. 4, 2005, pending, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/625,644, filed on Nov. 5, 2004, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/654,250, filed on Feb. 18, 2005, the entireties of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The inventions disclosed herein relate in general to the field of medical connectors, and in particular to needle-less medical connectors.
2. Description of the Related Art
The manipulation of fluids for parenteral administration in hospitals and medical settings routinely involves the use of connectors for selectively facilitating the movement of fluids to or from patients. For example, a connector may be attached to a catheter that leads to a tip positioned within a patient, and various connectors may be attached to one or more tubes and medical implements to control the fluid flow to or from the patient.
Needle-less connectors are typically structured so that a medical implement without a needle can be selectively connected to such a connector for providing fluid flow between a patient and a fluid source or receptacle. When the medical implement is removed, the connector closes, effectively sealing the catheter connected to the patient without requiring multiple injections to the patient and without exposing health care professionals to the risk of inadvertent needle sticks. The medical implement used with the connector may be a tube or other medical device such as a conduit, syringe, IV set (both peripheral and central lines), piggyback line, or similar component which is adapted for connection to the medical valve.
Many existing medical connectors can be relatively difficult to grasp by health care professionals during use. In most applications, medical connectors are designed to be relatively small to minimize the cost of manufacturing and to minimize the amount of fluid “dead space” inside the connectors. Moreover, most medical connectors include a housing with a hard, smooth outer surface. As a result, it is sometimes uncomfortable for health care professionals to tightly pinch their fingers around the connectors and firmly grasp them during medical procedures in a repetitious manner. Because health care professionals use such connectors very frequently during patient care, enhancements in their ability to effectively grasp the connectors can result in significant improvement in the time and effort required to use them. Additionally, the existing hard-surface medical connectors can be uncomfortable against a patient's skin. This discomfort can become especially pronounced when a patient requires frequent medical attention involving the use of medical connectors, such as hemodialysis.
Additionally, many existing medical connectors at least partially obstruct fluid flow with complex flow passageways including various turns, bends, and corners. These obstructions can result in a fairly low flow rate. The obstructions can also damage blood platelets.
Further, many existing connectors permit some degree of retrograde fluid flow upon the disconnection of these medical devices from the valve. These connectors typically include an internal space through which a fluid may flow from the medical implement to the catheter attached to the connector. When the medical implement is attached to the connector, it typically occupies a portion of this internal valve space, displacing a certain amount of fluid within the connector. When the medical implement is disconnected, a vacuum is created by the removal of the portion of the medical implement from the internal space of the connector, which tends to draw fluid up through the line from the patient toward the connector to fill the space left by the removal of the implement.
This regression of fluid has certain disadvantages. When the connector is attached to a fluid line leading to a patient, retrograde movement of fluid through the line towards the space in the connector has the effect of drawing a small amount of blood away from the patient in the direction of the connector. The blood thus drawn into the catheter may, over time, result in a clog in the catheter near its tip, potentially limiting the effectiveness of the catheter tip.
The likelihood of blood clogging the tip of a catheter is heightened when the inner diameter of the catheter is small. In parenteral applications, such smaller-diameter catheters are used frequently due to their numerous advantages. For example, smaller catheters reduce the trauma and discomfort caused by insertion into a patient. Because these catheters have small lumens, even a small suction force may draw fluid back a comparatively large distance through the catheter toward the connector.
Further, in some existing medical connectors, there are gaps between an internal sealing member and the outer housing of the connector. These gaps may allow bacteria, debris, or disinfectant solution to enter through the opening into the interior of the connector and potentially reach the flow of fluid to or from the patient.
Certain embodiments of the present invention provide a soft-grip medical connector comprising a housing with an upstream end, a downstream end, a lumen extending through a central portion of the housing, and a flexible member. In some embodiments, the flexible member has a valve portion integrally formed with a gripping portion. The valve portion is positioned within a portion of the housing. The valve portion is configured to control a flow of fluid through the housing lumen. The gripping portion covers at least a portion of an outer surface of the housing.
In some embodiments, a medical fluid connector comprises a cylindrical body, a valve portion, and a sleeve portion. The cylindrical body has an outer wall with a plurality of flanges extending radially therefrom and a lumen extending through a portion thereof. The valve portion provides a closeable seal between a first end and a second end of the cylindrical body. The sleeve portion can be unitarily formed with the valve portion and can surround a substantial portion of an outer surface of the cylindrical body.
Methods of forming a gripping and/or sealing portion of a medical device are also provided. In some embodiments, a method comprises injecting an uncured material into a mold, thereby molding a first preform from a substantially flexible material. The preform is removed from the preform mold, and a second preform is molded (though not necessarily in the same mold as the first). The first preform and the second preform are then inserted into a final mold, and an uncured material is injected into the final mold in order to over-mold the first and second pre-forms into a final structure having a valve member and a sleeve portion extending from the valve member.
Methods of making a medical fluid connector are also provided. In some embodiments, the methods comprise the steps of forming a valve member with a sleeve extending therefrom, the valve and sleeve being integrally formed of a substantially flexible material and forming a relatively rigid housing. A portion of the valve member is inserted into a cavity of the housing such that the sleeve extends from the housing member. The sleeve is then inverted to cover or surround at least a portion of an outer surface of the housing member.
In embodiments of a method of using a soft-grip connector, the downstream end is connected to a first medical implement such as a catheter. A second medical implement is inserted into an opening in the upstream end of the connector. Upon introduction of the second medical implement into the connector, in certain embodiments, the valve member expands, creating a larger internal volume. Fluid from the second medical implement is permitted to flow into the valve member. In some embodiments, this introduction of fluid causes further expansion of the volume inside the valve member, and as the fluid flow diminishes or stops, the inside volume of the valve member contracts.
As the second medical implement is withdrawn from the connector, the internal volume of the valve member also decreases. In some embodiments, the valve member can rapidly return to its original state (i.e., before insertion of the second medical implement). A region inside of the valve member near the upstream end is narrower than a region near the downstream end to impede the flow of fluid in the upstream direction and encourage the flow of fluid in the downstream direction. In this way, fluid inside the connector is forced toward the downstream end of the connector in the direction of the patient, creating a positive flow effect and minimizing regression of fluid back into the valve. Various configurations of positive-flow valves are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,695,817 and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0006330, owned by ICU Medical, Inc., and such documents are incorporated herein by reference and form a part of this specification for all that they disclose.
In many embodiments, the connector is small yet easily grippable. The outer sleeve can be made, for example, of silicone rubber, which creates a desirable degree of anti-slip friction against standard rubber gloves worn by health care professionals. In some embodiments, the contours of the connector in the region near the upstream end are generally smooth and seamless due to the integral formation of the flexible outer sleeve and the valve member. In this configuration, it is less likely that bacteria or other debris will gather in areas where fluid flow passes through to the patient and it is easier and more effective to swab such areas with antiseptic. The integral formation of the valve member and outer sleeve also simplifies, and increases the cost-effectiveness, of the manufacturing processes.
Having thus summarized the general nature of the invention, certain preferred embodiments and modifications thereof will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the detailed description herein having reference to the figures that follow, of which:
With reference to the attached figures, certain embodiments and examples of soft-grip medical connectors will now be described. Although certain embodiments and examples of a soft-grip connector are shown and described as including positive-flow valves, certain aspects and advantages of the systems and methods described herein can be advantageously applied to numerous other fluid connector designs including those without positive-flow characteristics.
Referring now to
Referring now to
With reference to the housing depicted in
As illustrated, embodiments of a housing member 12 can also include a plurality of ring sections 60 extending radially outwards from the outer surface of the cylindrical wall 44 of the upper housing 40. In some embodiments, the rings 60 are progressively smaller in diameter from top 60 a to bottom 60 c. In still other embodiments, the number, size, and configuration of the rings 60 can be modified in many other ways.
Flanges 62 can also be provided at the intersections between the rings 60 and the slots 46. The flanges 62 prevent lateral extensions 84 of the flexible member 80 (see, e.g.,
As illustrated in
The dimensions of the housing 12 preferably allow for a compact connector. Advantageously, a compact connector is relatively low cost as it requires a relatively small amount of material to manufacture. Further, the compactness typically results in a lightweight connector, thus reducing irritation to a patient when a connector is rested on or hanging from the patient for a relatively long duration use. For example, in some embodiments, the housing 12 has a height from an upstream end 16 to a downstream end of a Luer cannula 32 of between about 0.400″ and 1.200″. In other embodiments, the height of the housing 12 can be between about 0.500″ and 1.000″. In still other embodiments, the height is less than 1.000″. The height of the upper housing 40 from an upstream end 16 to the lower Luer connector 30 is between about 0.500″ and 0.750″. Preferably, the upper housing 40 comprises approximately three-fourths to four-fifths of the overall height of the housing 12. A Luer cavity 74 has a height extending from the lower end 36 of the housing 12 to a lower surface of the base member 48. In certain embodiments, the height of the Luer cavity is between approximately 0.150″ and 0.350″. In other embodiments, the height of the Luer cavity is less than approximately 0.400″. In a certain embodiment, the height of the Luer cavity is approximately 0.220″. Preferably, the height of the Luer cavity 74 corresponds to a length of a Luer connector to be inserted in the Luer cavity 74 such that the Luer connector can be flushly inserted into the Luer cavity 74. Preferably, the height of the Luer cavity 74 comprises from between approximately one-eighth to approximately one-third of the height of the housing 12. In certain embodiments, a Luer cannula 32 extends past the lower end 36 of the housing 12 approximately 0.050″ to 0.150″. In other embodiments, the Luer cannula 32 extends past the lower end 36 approximately 0.80″ to 0.120″. In a certain embodiment, the Luer cannula 32 extends past the lower end 36 approximately 0.093″. Preferably, the Luer cannula is sized and configured to couple with a Luer connector to be inserted into the Luer cavity 74
The dimensions of the rings 60 and other housing structures correspond to features of the sleeve 20 as will be further described below. For example, in some embodiments, the cylindrical wall 44 has an outer diameter of between about 0.200″ and about 0.300″, preferably between about 0.250 and about 0.275, and in one particular embodiment, a diameter of about 0.265. In such embodiments, the upper ring 60 a has a height ‘h’ (i.e. the difference between the outer diameter of the ring and the outer diameter of the cylindrical upper housing) of about 0.110″ (±.0.02″), the middle ring 60 b has a height of about 0.093″ (±.0.02″), and the lower ring 60 c has a height of about 0.073″ (±.0.02″). Thus, in certain embodiments, the housing 12 includes a generally hourglass-shaped body defined by the cylindrical wall 44 and the rings 60 a, 60 b, 60 c and having a maximum diameter of between about 0.310″ and 0.410″, preferably between about 0.360″ and 0.385″, and in one particular embodiment, about 0.375″. Other dimensions within and outside of the above ranges can also be used depending on the particular application desired.
As shown, for example, in
In some embodiments, the lower housing interface comprises a Luer connector 30 to facilitate joining the connector 10 to medical devices with female Luer connectors. The Luer connector 30 of the housing 12 can comprise a hard cannula 32 extending downwardly from the lower end 36 of the housing 12 to provide a connection with another medical device, such as a catheter hub. Other interfaces and connections can also be used in place of the Luer connector 30, such as Luer slip connections, barbed hose fittings, etc.
As shown in
In certain embodiments, it is desirable to provide vents 72 (see
With reference to
In some embodiments, a two-piece housing may include many or all of the structural features of the housing illustrated in
The two piece housing illustrated in
In the housing illustrated in
As illustrated in
The neck 86 is positioned between first and second lateral extensions 84, which each have shoulders 92 comprising those portions of the lateral extensions nearest the flange 90. The body 82, neck 86, flange 90, and sleeve 20 can thus form an integral unit. The body 82 is generally configured to include a narrow passageway or slit 94 extending through the body 82. The slit 94 generally extends through the body 82 including the neck 86 and the flange 90. In
As will be described more fully below, the valve member 14 is inserted into the cavity 42 of the housing 12. The slit 94 is generally sized and shaped to permit insertion of a cannula of a syringe or other medical device therein. The connector can be adapted to receive an ANSI standard syringe Luer tip. In some embodiments, the slit 94 is configured to assist in producing a valve that exhibits positive flow characteristics.
The slit 94 extends from the slit opening 100 in the flange 90 to a lead lumen 102 formed in a the downstream end of the body 82 opposite the flange 90. In some embodiments, the lead lumen 102 can be substantially cylindrical and centered about an axis that is substantially parallel to or collinear with the longitudinal axis of the valve member 14. The lead lumen 102 can also be provided with an enlarged external diameter section 104 (e.g. see
As illustrated in
The slit 94 is generally configured to provide a sealable fluid pathway between the slit opening 100 and the lead lumen 102. In some embodiments, the slit 94 can be configured as shown and described herein or as shown and described in any of the patents and applications incorporated herein by reference. The slit 94 is typically made to have essentially no space between adjacent faces of the slit. Examples of methods for making a suitable seal are described in further detail below.
In the embodiment illustrated in
In the embodiments of
To retain the sleeve 20 in an inverted position surrounding the housing 12, the sleeve 20 can be provided with retaining structures to engage portions of the housing 12. Such retaining structures can include any of a variety of structures, such as protrusions, ribs, ridges, and constrictions. In the embodiments illustrated in
The protrusions 120 can be provided in annular rows generally configured to correspond to the spaces between the rings 60 of the housing 12. The length of each row is generally also sized to allow the protrusions to lie between the linear flanges 62 adjacent the slots 46. In other embodiments, the sleeve protrusions 120 and/or the rings 60 and flanges 62 of the housing 12 can be provided in any pattern of cooperating structures to allow the sleeve 20 to be retained against axial and/or rotational movement relative to the housing 12. For example, in some embodiments, the sleeve 20 further comprises recesses or windows 126 for receiving and surrounding portions of the housing, such as the Luer protrusions 70 (see
In the illustrated embodiment, the sleeve 20 comprises a constriction 122 surrounding the opening 124 of the sleeve 20. The constriction 122 generally comprises a section of the sleeve with a reduced diameter as compared to the second section 114. The constriction 122 can be configured to engage a feature on the housing 12 such as the annular groove 54 (see e.g.
As described previously, some embodiments of a sleeve 20 can be provided with one or more windows 126 to accommodate and surround one or more structures on the housing such as protrusions 70 (also referred to as Luer lugs) or sized to receive a standard Luer connector. In such embodiments, the windows 126 can be molded to include thicker edges to prevent undesirable tearing of the sleeve material during assembly or use.
Moreover, as previously described, in some embodiments the sleeve 20 is not formed integrally with the valve member 14. The sleeve 20 can also be formed by adhering, coating, or otherwise providing an outside surface on the housing 12 with a suitable gripping region (instead of mechanically stretching a separately formed sleeve member over the outside surface of the housing 12). The sleeve 20 can also be formed as a band or clip that extends around only the portion of the housing 12 where the fingers of the health care provider are expected to grip the connector 10. Also, in certain embodiments, the connector 10 may be constructed without a sleeve 20.
In the embodiments depicted in
The stiffening ribs 87 can provide resiliency and durability to the valve member 14. In some embodiments, the ribs 87 can help the valve member 14 to resist crumpling in a substantially longitudinal direction upon insertion of a medical implement into the slit opening 100. Such crumpling could block or restrict fluid flow, prevent the connector from closing, or otherwise result in some degree of inconsistent performance. Since the crumpling tendency could be exacerbated by aging of a medical connector and repeated usage cycles, the stiffening ribs can greatly extend the lifespan of a valve member 14 in a medical connector. In some embodiments, additional structures and/or materials can be used in the medical connector 10, either in combination with or absent stiffening ribs 87, to resist crumpling of the valve member 14. For example, the valve member 14 may be constructed of a material selected to be flexible enough to permit insertion of a medical implement into the slit opening 100, but stiff enough to resist crumpling over repeated usage cycles. Likewise, a desired balance between flexibility and valve longevity and resistance to crumpling may be achieved by selecting a desired thickness of the valve member 14 (with relatively thicker material used in the valve member 14 increasing the valve longevity and crumple resistance at the expense of flexibility and ease of insertion of medical implements into the slit opening 100). For example, in some embodiments, the thickness of the wall of the valve member 14 across most, nearly all, or all of its outside surface area can be about as thick as the wall of the valve member 14 plus a stiffening rib 87. In some embodiments, the thickness of the wall of the valve member 14, in at least some regions, is at least as large as, or at least about 1½-2 times as large as, the diameter of the lead lumen 102.
Another embodiment of flexible member 83 for use in a soft-grip medical connector that is configured to extend the usage lifespan of a valve member is illustrated in
As illustrated in
In some embodiments, this non-zero volume of the passage 175 in an undisturbed state can prevent the illustrated embodiment of flexible member 83 from exhibiting positive flow characteristics when a medical implement inserted completely into the slit 171 is removed under certain circumstances. This passage 175 configuration has certain other advantages. As previously noted, the flexible member 83 resists crumpling. The divergence of the sidewalls 177, 179 enhances the durability of the valve member 153 as compared with planar sidewalls of other flexible member 80, 81 embodiments.
Additionally, the slit 171 of the flexible member 83 has a relatively small region of contact between the sidewalls 177, 179. The small region of contact results in a corresponding small resistance to flow in an undisturbed state. Thus, the flow through the valve member can be quickly initiated by inserting a medical implement only partially into the passage, or even merely positioning the medical implement adjacent to, but not within, the slit 171. Thus, either the tip of the implement or the pressure of the fluid flow breaks contact of the sidewalls 177, 179 at the slit 171 to open the valve. Advantageously, where partial insertion of, or merely adjacent contact with, a medical implement is performed, the valve member 153 may exhibit positive flow characteristics as the interior volume of the passage 175 in the undisturbed state is smaller than the interior volume of the passage 175 in the partially inserted state.
Furthermore, if, as in the illustrated flexible member 83, the passage 175 does not configured to provide positive flow characteristics on complete insertion of a medical implement, the passage 175 of the flexible member 83 need not include a region of relatively larger width. Thus, the passage 175 and the lateral extensions 169 of the flexible member 83 can be relatively narrow. Correspondingly, the housing can have a relatively smaller diameter as compared with a positive flow medical connector. Thus, a reduction in materials costs and connector weight could be achieved with a non-positive flow embodiment of flexible member 83.
Embodiments of methods for making the valve member 14 of the flexible connectors 80, 81 will now be discussed with reference to
In one embodiment, a valve member 14 can be molded according to the general process described in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0006330. A pair of preforms are molded between first and second mold pairs. After this initial molding step, the mold halves with the preforms still positioned therein, are pressed together with an overmold plate positioned between the mold halves. The overmold plate is generally configured to produce the final shape of the valve member 14. With the mold apparatus (including the preform mold halves and overmold plate) fully assembled, additional uncured material is then injected into the mold apparatus to fill the additional space in the mold cavity created by the overmold plate, thereby forming the remainder of the valve member 14. In some embodiments, the overmolding method described in the '330 publication can be adapted to form a valve member 14 with an integral sleeve as described herein. Alternatively, a valve member 14 can be molded according to the method of the '330 patent, and a sleeve 20 can be subsequently joined to the valve member 14 by any suitable process such as molding, welding, or adhesives.
Another embodiment of an overmolding method is provided with reference to
After each preform 130 is molded, it can be removed from the preform mold and placed into an over-mold. The over-mold is generally configured to form a final desired valve member/sleeve structure 80. In some embodiments, an overmold comprises first and second halves. Each half can comprise pins configured to locate the preforms 130 in the overmold by aligning the pins with dimples 110 in the preforms 130.
Once the preforms are properly located in the overmold halves, the overmold halves can be brought together and an uncured overmolding material can be injected into the mold cavity. In some embodiments, the additional (overmolding) material is injected soon (i.e., a few seconds) after the preforms 130 are molded and while they are still somewhat hot from their initial molding. The additional material injected into the mold cavity bonds to the edges of the preforms 130 and forms the edges of the slit 94 in the completed valve member 14 and sleeve 20. In this way, the remainder of the valve member 14 and the sleeve 20 are overmolded and integrally formed with one another and with a pair of preforms during the over-molding step.
In some embodiments, the preforms 130 are pressed together with sufficient force during the overmolding process to prevent the overmolding material from migrating between the contacting surfaces of the preforms 130. This preserves the patency of the slit 94 by preventing the contacting faces of the preforms 130 from bonding to each other during the overmold step.
In other embodiments of this method, additional material is allowed to flow between and bond the contacting faces of the preforms to one another. Subsequently, the valve member 14 can be re-opened by inserting a blade between the preforms, thereby cutting open the slit 94. In still another embodiment, the entire valve member/sleeve structure can be molded in a single process (i.e. without a pre-formed slit), and a slit 94 can be subsequently formed by inserting a blade into a solid valve member section. In another alternative embodiment, a sleeve 20 and valve member 14 can be individually pre-formed and subsequently attached to one another, such as by overmolding, welding or with adhesives.
In some embodiments, the material added in the overmold step is similar to that utilized in molding the preforms 130. However, in other embodiments the preform material and the overmold material may comprise different but nonetheless suitable materials for manufacturing the valve member 14 and sleeve 20.
In general, the sleeve 20 is typically made of a material with sufficient flexibility to allow the sleeve 20 to be inverted and stretched around the housing 12, and sufficient resilience to tightly grip the housing 12 in the inverted orientation. Similarly, the valve member 14 is typically made of a material that is sufficiently flexible to allow a cannula to be inserted therein to open the slit, and also has sufficient resilience to re-close the valve member 14 once the cannula is withdrawn. In some embodiments, the valve member 14 and the sleeve 20 are unitarily formed of an elastomeric material such as silicone rubber. In one preferred embodiment, the valve member 14 and sleeve 20 are integrally molded from 50 durometer silicone rubber. Alternatively, the valve member 14 and sleeve 20 can be made of synthetic polyisoprene, other silicone rubber and/or urethane formulations, or other materials acceptable for medical use. In some embodiments, the sleeve 20 can be molded from a first material, and the valve member 14 can be molded from a second, different material.
Some embodiments of a flexible member 83 (
With reference now to
Once the valve member 14 is fully inserted into the upper housing 40 (e.g. as shown in
When a cleaning solution or other liquid is applied to the medical connector 10, the liquid may seep around the protrusions 70 between the sleeve 20 and the housing 12, thus causing the sleeve to slip relative to the housing 12 and making it more difficult for a health care professional to grip the outside surface of the medical connector 10. To reduce the risk that the sleeve 20 will slide or separate from the housing 12, the sleeve 20 can be adhered to the housing 12. Additionally, in various embodiments, the sleeve 20 may be stretched over an annular groove 54 (
Preferably, the housing 12, sleeve 20, and adhesive are chosen of compatible materials to reduce the risk of material degradation due to the application of adhesive. For example, the sleeve 20 can be constructed of a silicone rubber, to be bonded with the housing 12 with a silicone-based adhesive such as an adhesive comprising dimethylpolysiloxane. In certain embodiments, the adhesive may require the mixture of two components, at least one of which includes a catalyst such as a platinum-based catalyst. In certain embodiments, the adhesive may require curing such as, for example, by heating the adhesive to a predetermined temperature for a predetermined time. For material compatibility with a silicone-based adhesive, the housing 12 can be constructed of a glass-reinforced thermoplastic polyester resin, such as, for example, glass-filled Valox® including approximately 30% glass fill, produced by General Electric Company. In some embodiments, the housing 12 can be constructed of a polycarbonate material, although in some situations the polycarbonate may not be compatible with a silicone-based adhesive.
The sleeve 20 on the outside surface of the housing 12 allows health care providers to more comfortably and effectively grasp the connector 10. The flexible material of the sleeve 20 provides a softer surface for the fingers. There is preferably a high-friction interface between the flexible material of the sleeve 20 and the rubber gloves typically worn by health care providers, requiring less finger-pinching effort to screw the connector 10 onto a catheter or other medical implement and to maintain the connector 10 in a desired position and orientation during the connection and fluid-administration processes.
In addition to providing a soft, easily grippable outer surface, the sleeve 20 surrounding the exterior of the housing 12 protects the lateral extensions from being pinched or otherwise undesirably manipulated during handling and use of the connector. In one embodiment, the valve member 14 and housing 12 are constructed such that the distance between the upstream end 16 and the top edges 140 of the slots 46 of the housing 12 is slightly larger than the distance between the flange 90 and the shoulders 92 of the lateral extensions 84 of the valve member 14. This arrangement results in the application of a tensile force or preload to the valve member 14 between the flange 90 and the lateral extensions 84.
The preload arises as the shoulders 92 bear against the top edges 140 of the housing and the seal flange 90 bears against the upstream end 16 and/or the shoulder 142 of the axial opening at the upstream end of the housing. In some embodiments, the preload causes the flange 90 to assume a slightly bowl-shaped or concave configuration as the edges of the upstream housing end 16 bear against the underside of the flange 90. The bowl-shaped flange 90 tends to more tightly pinch closed the slit opening 100 and thus enhances the ability of the valve member 14 to prevent fluid flow. The preload also prevents buckling of the valve member 14 along its longitudinal axis and maintains the sides of the slit 94 in close proximity to each other along their entire length. The preload thus promotes a relatively thin slit 94 below the flange 90, which enhances the sealing performance of the slit 94. In some embodiments, a distance between the shoulders 92 and the opening 148 of the interior cannula 50 is sized such that the lead lumen 102 of the valve member 14 will be engaged with and sealed to the interior cannula 50 of the housing 12.
Referring now to
Before the cannula 200 is inserted, the connector 10 is in a sealed state (see, e.g.,
As fluid is injected from the medical device 202, through the cannula 200, and into the interior space within the valve member 14, the space between the slits walls 206 increases further and the slit walls 206 expand further and lengthen further in the downstream direction. The valve member 14 thus selectively permits fluid 204 to flow between a medical device 202 on the upstream end of the connector 10 and a medical implement (not shown) to which the lower Luer connector 30 is attached.
As shown in
As the fluid flow 204 diminishes and/or the cannula 200 of the medical device 202 is withdrawn from the valve member 14, the slit walls 206 retract and return to their original configuration to once again define a narrow, restrictive path width between them (as illustrated, for example, in
Although the foregoing description refers to a syringe, it is contemplated that any type of suitable medical devices may be joined to either end of the connector 10, such as IV bags, other connectors, and tubing, for the purposes of fluid transfer or for any other desired purpose. An auxiliary connector also may be connected to the soft grip connector, and both connectors can be placed in fluid communication with a catheter with an end positioned within a patient. This arrangement can provide several advantages in situations which call for the use of a unique auxiliary connector. For example, when it is necessary to replace or reconfigure fluid lines connected to auxiliary connectors, such lines may be removed from fluid communication with the catheter without creating a backflow in the catheter, and replaced with a similar connector or any other medical implement. In some embodiments, one such auxiliary connector may be the CLAVE® connector sold by ICU Medical, Inc. However, any connector or other medical implement or device may be placed in fluid communication with the soft grip connector 10 to introduce fluid to the patient or to withdraw blood from the patient including, but not limited to, pierceable connectors, needle-less connectors, medical tubing, syringes or any other medical implement or device.
Although certain embodiments and examples have been described herein, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that many aspects of the methods and devices shown and described in the present disclosure may be differently combined and/or modified to form still further embodiments. For example, the various embodiments of housing may be interchangeable applied to the various embodiments of flexible member to achieve multiple embodiments of soft-grip medical connector. Additionally, it will be recognized that the methods described herein may be practiced using any device suitable for performing the recited steps. Such alternative embodiments and/or uses of the methods and devices described above and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof are intended to be within the scope of the present disclosure. Thus, it is intended that the scope of the present invention should not be limited by the particular embodiments described above, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.