US 3848607 A
A therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion and infection in the sinuses and surrounding areas of the nose, mouth and eyes is formed from a heat applicator that can be held against the hard palate of the mouth to transfer dry heat through the palate and into the affected area of the head. The apparatus is provided with a heater which heats a fluid within a housing and a pump which circulates the heated fluid through the applicator held manually in the mouth. The applicator includes a ducted handle which is connected by a flexible tubing to the pump in the housing to receive heated fluid and a hollow, pliable pillow through which the heated fluid is circulated. The pliable pillow held in the mouth conforms to the interior shape of the mouth, especially the hard palate, and allows the heat from the circulating fluid to be transferred into the head to bring relief from the congestion and infection in the affected area.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 St. Clair [451 Nov. 19, 1974 THERAPEUTIC APPARATUS  Inventor: Mel St. Clair, 31 Byram Shore Rd.,
Greenwich, Conn. 06830 22 Filed: June 8,1973
21 Appl. No.: 368,073
Related US. Application Data  Continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 193,679, Oct. 29,
Primary Exam inerLawrence W. Trapp Attorney, Agent, or Firm-McCormick, Paulding & Huber  ABSTRACT A therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion and infection in the sinuses and surrounding areas of the nose, mouth and eyes is formed from a heat applicator that can be held against the hard palate of the mouth to transfer dry heat through the palate and into the affected area of the head. The apparatus is provided with a heater which heats a fluid within a housing and a pump which circulates the heated fluid through the applicator held manually in the mouth. The applicator includes a ducted handle which is connected by a flexible tubing to the pump in the housing to receive heated fluid and a hollow, pliable pillow through which the heated fluid is circulated. The pliable pillow held in the mouth conforms to the interior shape of the mouth, especially the hard palate, and allows the heat from the circulating fluid to be transferred into the head to bring relief from the congestion and infection in the affected area.
11 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures THERAPEUTIC APPARATUS CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS This application is a continuation-in-part of copending abandoned application Ser. No. 193,679 filed Oct. 29, 1971 by the same inventor.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to a therapeutic device for the treatment of congestion and infection and similar chronic conditions which cause patients to persistently suffer from the discomforts and pain accompanying such conditions.
The discomforts and pain associated with sinus congestion and similar ailments are known to effect significant portions of the population. In many instances, the pain associated with such ailments requires medical treatment to obtain relief. The treatment of such ailments is particularly desirable from the patients standpoint because discomfort in the region of the nasal cavity also effects breathing and the sense organs in the immediately surrounding area of the head.
As indicated by U.S. Pat. No. 2,257,329, it has been known for some time that the application of heat to the hard palate and surrounding region can have significant, beneficial affects in relieving congested conditions and the associated pain and discomfort. While the apparatus disclosed in the referenced patent is intended for the same type of treatment as the apparatus of the present invention, there is still a need for a simple, self-contained inexpensive apparatus of this type and it is believed that the apparatus of the present invention can fulfill this need due to the differences in construction and the ease and convenience with which the apparatus may be employed.
It is accordingly an object of the present invention to disclose an improved therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion and infection in the nasal cavity and the regions surrounding the hard palate of the mouth.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention resides in a therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion and infection in the mouth, nasal cavity, sinuses and surrounding areas of the head. The apparatus comprises a fluid chamber which can be enclosed within a housing and in which a fluid may be admitted and discharged. Heating means is connected with the chamber for heating the fluid admitted to the chamber and pumping means in fluid communication with the chamber is utilized to pump the fluid from the chamber and to circulate the fluid through the applicator. The applicator includes a handle and a hollow, pliable pillow formed from a fluid impervious material and connected to the handle so that a patient can hold the pillow gently and compressively against the hard palate of the mouth. The pillow is connected in fluid communication with the pumping means and receives the heated fluid from the chamber. When the pliable pillow is gently supported against the roof of the mouth, it conforms easily to the interior shape of the mouth, especially the hard palate, and provides good surface contact so that the dry heat can be transferred from the heated fluid through the pillow and the palate into the affected area of the head. The
apparatus may be manufactured economically for purchase by the general public so that afflicated patients can provide their own self-treatment whenever relief from the chronic condition is desired.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a therapeutic apparatus embodying the present invention and indicates the method by which the apparatus is used to treat congestion and infection in the nasal cavity.
FIG. 2 is a side view partially in section showing the components of the apparatus within the housing and the applicator in its storage position on the housing.
FIG. 3 is a side view of the applicator shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.
FIG. 4 is an enlarged sectional view of the distal end of the applicator.
FIG. 5 is an enlarged sectional view of the applicator as seen along the sectioning line 55 of FIG. 3.
FIG. 6 is an enlarged sectional view of the distal end of an applicator having an integral reinforcing portion of the hollow pillow.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS FIGS. 1 and 2 show a therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion and infection in the mouth. nasal passages, sinuses and the surrounding areas of the head. The apparatus is comprised principally of a pedestal or base 12 and a hand-held heat applicator 14 which is connected to the pedestal 12 by a flexible tubing 16. The pedestal 12 forms a housing in which the heavier components of the apparatus are enclosed so that the applicator 14 remains relatively light and easy to hold manually within the patients mouth against the hard palate P as shown in FIG. 1. The upper portion of the pedestal 12 includes a saddle 20 about which the tubing 16 may be wrapped and in which the applicator 14 can be stored when not in use as shown in FIG. 2.
Within the housing of the pedestal 12 are a fluid pump 22 and an adjustable electrical heater 24. Both the pump 22 and the heater 24 are turned on and off from a control knob 26 located in the lower portion of the pedestal l2 and operate on standard electrical power supplied through the power cord 28. The therapeutic apparatus 10, therefore, can be operated bya patient in his own home or office without specialized medical equipment or supplies.
As shown in FIG. 2, the lower portion of the pedestal 12 includes a fluid chamber 30 which is used to receive, store and discharge a fluid, such as water, or ethylene glycol, that carries, heat to the hand-held applicator 14. The pedestal 12 may also be provided with a cap or plug (not shown) so that the chamber 30 can be filled with fluid prior to initial use or emptied of fluid as needed. It is possible in an alternate embodiment of the invention to eliminate the fill plug and employ a closed system in which the fluid is retained within the apparatus 10 at all times.
The heater 24 shown in FIG. 2 is a conventional electrical coil which is immersed in the fluid chamber 30. In addition to turning the apparatus on and off, the control knob 26 also operates a thermostatic control device, such as bimetallic switch, connected with the heater 24 to regulate the amount of heat delivered from the heater 24 to the fluid. In this manner, a patient can control the amount of heat which is transferred from the applicator 14 into the nasal cavity and can prevent the temperature of the heated fluid from becoming elevated to a point that would cause the roof of the mouth to be irritated or otherwise injured from too much heat. A heat sensing cutout is used to prevent excessive heatmg.
The temperature range for the fluid circulated through the applicator 14 is limited if the most beneficial therapeutic effects are to be obtained from the apparatus. A fluid temperature suitable for most patients lies in the range of llF to 170F. The temperature settings of control knob 26 may be indicated by graduations about the knob '50 that the heater 24 cycles on and off at temperatures within this range. Below this range the amount of heat delivered to the afflicted area is minimal and temperatures above this range cannot generally be tolerated by a patient. A more limited temperature range is 145F to 160F. The more limited temperature range provides an adequate temperature differential between the circulating fluid and the body so that a reasonable quantity of heat will be delivered to the afflicted area. At the same time, however, elevated temperatures which cannot be tolerated by patients having sensitive tissue are avoided The pump 22 has an inlet tube 32 which projects downwardly from the pump and forms an inlet port adjacent to the bottom of the fluid chamber 30. The pump 22 also includes a discharge tube 34 forming a discharge port which is connected through a coaxial passageway fitting 36 to the flexible tubing 16. Both the flexible tubing 16 and the fitting 36 have coaxial passageways forming supply and return ducts so that the heated fluid can be pumped from the chamber 30 to the applicator l4 and back to the chamber 30. In the fitting 36, the passageways are formed by coaxial conduits 38 and 39. The discharge tube 34 of the pump 22 is connected to the inner conduit 38 so that heated fluid is supplied to the applicator 14 through the conduit 38 and returns through the conduit 39. The conduit 39 terminates above the conduit 38 so that fluid returning from applicator 14 spills into the chamber 30. The inlet tube 32' is spaced from the return conduit 39 and is located adjacent the heater 24 so that heated fluid is ingested by the pump.
FIGS. 3, 4 and show the detailed construction of the hand-held applicator 14. The applicator 14 comprises principally a handle 40 connected at its proximal end with the flexible tubing 16 and a hollow, pliable pillow 42 which projects from and is connected to the distal end of the handle 40 by means of a releasable coupling 44. The handle 40 is molded from a relatively rigid material such as acrylanitrelbutadyrenestyrene (ABS) which is a hard plastic that can provide support for the pliable pillow 42 and permit the pillow to be gently compressed against the hard palate in the mouth. The pillow is formed from a fluid impervious and pliable material, such as a vinyl, so that it can be deformed when pressed against the palate and present a large surface area in contact with the roof of the mouth for good heat transfer characteristics. To support the pillow 42 in a slightly compressed condition,
the distal end of the handle includes a rigid backing element 46 which extends at an angle to the handle at the distal end adjacent a limited surface area on the lower side of the pillow. The pillow as indicated has a bulbous configuration and the backing element 46 has a corresponding concave configuration so that it does not destroy the shape of the pillow and thereby interfere with the circulation of fluid into and out of the pillow when the pillow is pressed upwardly against the palate.
As seen most clearly in the enlarged sectional views of the applicator 14 in FIGS. 4 and 5, the handle 40 has two coaxial conduits 50 and 52 which form the coaxial fluid passageways connected respectively through the flexible tubing 16 to the coaxial conduits 38 and 39 in the fitting 36 on the pedestal 12. Consequently, the heated fluid is delivered through the inner conduit 50 to the pliable pillow 42 and transfers heat into the hard palate and surrounding areas of the head while the fluid circulates through the pillow. The fluid then returns through the conduit 52 to the pedestal where it is again heated and delivered back to the pillow.
It is preferable that the cross-sectional area of the conduit be slightly larger than the effective crosssectional area through which fluid is returned in the conduit 52. The differential in the cross-sectional area produces a slightly greater restriction in the flow of fluid returning to the chamber 30 and thereby insures that a slightly increased pressure level will persist in the pillow 42 to hold the pillow inflated in its bulbous configuration while it is compressed against the palate as shown in FIG. 1.
The fluid pump 22 can provide either a steady or a pulsating flow of fluid to the pliable pillow 42. In specific embodiments of the apparatus having pumps providing a pulsating flow, the pulsation rate of the fluid delivered to the pillow 42 should lie in a range of to 900 pulses per minute. One advantage offered by a pulsating fluid flow is that the pliable pillow 42 flexes slightly with each pulsation and provides a slight massaging effect on the body region being treated. Both the massage and heat are effective treatments for some patients suffering from sinus difficulties. In addition to the massage, however, the pulsating effect of the pillow is preferred by some patients who would otherwise experience a gagging sensation induced by the presence of the pillow at rest in the mouth.
The releasable coupling 44 at the distal end of the handle 40 permits the pliable pillow 42 to be removed and installed as needed. The coupling includes a ferrule 60 crimped on the handle 40 and a telescoped section 62 held in its extended position from the ferrule by a packing 64. The section 62 is cylindrical and has threads on its outer cylindrical surface so that an internally threaded cap 66 attached to the pillow 42 .and supporting the backing element 46 can be threaded onto the section 62. An O-ring 68 sandwiched between the end of the section 62 and the cap 66 insures a fluidtight joint. If the pillow 42 becomes damaged or leaks, the replacement is greatly simplified by the coupling 44.
. FIG. 6 illustrates a modified form of an applicator, generally designated 70. The applicator 70 is connected to the pedestal 12 by flexible tubing 16 in the same manner as the applicator 14 in FIG. 1. The applicator 70 is comprised of a hollow, pliable pillow 72 and a handle 74 connected at the distal end to the pillow 72. The pillow 72 is formed from a fluid impervious material and has a thin, smooth. pliable upper surface portion 76 and a thick, rigid lower surface portion 78. At one side of the pillow, a connecting sleeve 80 is provided to attach the pillow to the distal end of the handle 74. A rib on the sleeve and corresponding groove in the handle form a releasable coupling permitting the pillow and handle to be readily connected and disconnected.
The sleeve 80, the rigid lower portion 78 of the pillow and the upper portion 76 are all interconnected and can be formed in an integral unit by, for example, a simple blow-molding process. It will be readily apparent that the rigid portion 78 projecting slightly down and then spreading outwardly away from the sleeve 80 with a rigid interconnection to the sleeve serves the basic supporting function for the rest of the pillow in a manner similar to the separate rigid backing member 46 in the embodiment of the applicator shown in FIG. 4. The sleeve 80 is hollow and receives the inlet and discharge tubes 50 and 52 respectively in sealing relationship so that the circulation of heated fluid through the pliable pillow can be carried out in the same manner as described above. The pliable upper portion 76 of the pillow, of course, is braced by the lower portion 78 and will readily conform to the hard palate of the mouth or other region being treated under the slight pressure applied to the pillow through the handle.
It will thus be seen that the therapeutic apparatus can be utilized to apply a dry heat to the hard palate of the mouth in order to provide relief from the pain and discomfort of congestion and infection in the nasal cavity. The apparatus is assembled in an inexpensive selfcontained unit that requires only a power source and a fluid, such as water or similar fluid, for operation. Therefore, the patient can treat his condition at his own convenience. The apparatus is designed with the heat applicator 14 or 70 on a flexible tube separate from the pumping and heating components which greatly facilitates the use of the apparatus. The patient simply holds the applicator by the handle with the pliable pillow pressed gently against the hard palate region of his mouth in order to derive the benefits of the dry heat produced by the circulation of heated fluid from the pedestal 12 through the applicator.
While the present invention has been described in a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that numerous modifications and substitutions can be had without departing from the spirit of the invention. For example, although the handle of the applicator 14 or 70 is provided with fluid passageways through which the heated fluid is delivered to and returned from the pillow, separate conduits leading directly from the pump to the pillow could be provided. Specific hard plastic materials have been mentioned as desirable for constructing the handle and the same materials may be used for the pedestal 12; however, such materials are not necessarily the only suitable materials and others may be substituted if desired. The pump 22 and the heater 24 may also be designed to operate from a battery or other power source so that the apparatus can be made portable for operation in a vehicle or other locations where standard electrical power is not available. Other types of heaters such as chemical, solar or nuclear heat generators may be used in place of the electrical heater'24. Of course, it is not essential that the fluid be circulated through the fluid chamber 30 for reheating. The chamber 30 may simply be a reservoir in which the fluid is heated prior to being circulated through the pillow and disposed of. However, the closed fluid circuit system described is more economical and convenient since it does not require the heating and disposal of large quantities of fluid. Accordingly,
the present invention has been disclosed in a preferred embodiment by way of illustration rather than limitation.
1. Therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion, infection and similar conditions in the mouth, nasal passages, sinuses and regions of the head surrounding the mouth comprising: a base having a fluid chamber for receiving and storing a fluid; pumping means connected with the base and communicating with the fluid chamber for pumping the fluid received by the chamber; heating means to heat the fluid pumped from the chamber in the base by the pumping means; flexible fluid conduit means connected at one end with the base to receive the fluid pumped from the chamber and having another end provided with two fluid passageways; and a hand-held applicator connected to the other end of the flexible fluid conduit means to permit the applicator to be manually manipulated remotely of the base, the applicator including a relatively rigid, elongated handle, a hollow pillow formed from a fluid impervious material and coupled directly to one end of the elongated handle for support within the mouth compressed against and conformed to the hard palate and rigid backing means extending between the one end of the handle and the hollow pillow, the hollow pillow also being connected to the other end of the flexible fluid conduit means with the two fluid passageways communicating with the interior of the pillow to permit the pumped and heated fluid to be circulated in and out of the pillow, the pillow being of a bulbous configuration suitable for insertion in the mouth and having a pliable surface portion extending at least from one lateral side of the pillow over the upper part of the pillow pressed against the palate to the other lateral side, the pliable surface portion being smooth to permit efficient transfer of dry heat through the pillow material into the hard palate from the fluid circulated through the interior of the pillow, the rigid backing means having a concave contour, diverging from the axis of the handle at the one end and extending under the pillow to provide support for the pillow along the full periphery of the area of contact between the pliable surface and the palate.
2. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein the fluid chamber in the base, the pumping means and the hollow pillow are interconnected in a closed fluid circuit by the flexible fluid conduit means whereby the heated fluid may be circulatedbetween the pillow and the base.
3. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 2 wherein the pumping means comprises a pump having an inlet port through which the fluid in the chamber is ingested and a discharge port through which the fluid is expelled; and the flexible fluid conduit means includes two fluid passageways, one passageway extending from the discharge port Of the pumping means to the interior of the hollow pillow and the other passageway extending from the hollow pillow to the fluid chamber in the base.
4. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 3 wherein the two fluid passageways of the flexible fluid conduit means are coaxial between the base and the pillow.
5. A therapeutic apparatus for the treatment/of con gestion and infection as defined in claim 1 wherein the heating means comprises a manually adjustable heater.
6. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein the one end of the handle of the applicator includes a releasable coupling connecting the pillow directly to the handle for removal and installation of the pillow.
7. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein the fluid conduit means extends from the base through the elongated handle to the hollow pillow.
8. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein the pumping means includes a fluid pump providing a pulsating flow of fluid for the hollow pillow.
9. A therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of afflicted regions of the body surrounding a natural body opening comprised of: an elongated and rigid positioning handle having a distal end and a proximal end and a passageway extending between the ends; a hollow, pliable pillow connected directly to the distal end of the handle for support in a position within the body opening in contact with the afflicted region, the pillow having a bulbous configuration and being formed from a fluid impervious material having a smooth, pliable, surface portion; rigid supporting means departing at an angle to the handle at the distal end and having a contoured configuration matching the bulbous configuration of the pillow to provide support for the pillow against the palate; and flexible fluid conduit means leading from the hollow, pliable pillow at the distal end of the handle through the passageway in the handle and the proximal end for circulating a treatment fluid through the pillow and adjacent the afflicated region without direct contact of the fluid and the body.
10. A therapeutic apparatus for the treatment of congestion, infection and similar conditions in afflicted regions of the body surrounding a natural body opening such as the nasal passages, sinuses and regions of head adjacent the mouth comprised of: an elongated and rigid positioning handle having a distal end and a proximal end; and a hollow bulbous pillow connected directly to the distal end of the handle for insertion through the natural opening and for positioning in the body adjacent the afflicted region and formed from a fluid impervious'material, the pillow having a pliable, upper surface portion and a rigid lower surface portion integrally connected in a bulbous configuration; the pliable upper surface portion extending from one lateral side of the pillow over the upper part of the pillow to the opposite lateral side and being smooth and sufficiently pliable to conform to the body shape within the opening and to permit efficient transfer to heat through the pillow to the body; the rigid, lower portion extending under the lower part of the pillow and having a rigidity sufficient to hold the integrally connected pliable portion in a compressed condition against the afflicted body region to further insure the efficient transfer of heat.
11. A therapeutic apparatus as defined in claim 10 wherein: the elongated positioning handle has a passageway extending between the ends of the handle; and the hollow pillow further includes a sleeve integrally connected to the other portions of the pillow and connecting with the passageway at the distal end of the elongated handle, the sleeve being rigidly interconnected with the rigid portion of the pillow.