A disposable speculum is a specialized medical instrument intended for a single use. Speculums are designed to allow a doctor to directly visualize an internal cavity of the body such as the ear or the anus. While they were historically made from materials that were designed to be sterilized and reused, today it is increasingly common to see physicians using disposable speculums, for a variety of reasons. Medical supply catalogs sell these instruments and they can also be purchased through medical clinics.
The shape and size of a speculum varies, depending on where the device is designed to be used. Some have blades that allow the instrument to be inserted and then opened to hold a cavity open, as seen with speculums designed for the mouth, anus, and vagina. For examination of the ears and eyes, the speculum takes the form of a small cone that allows the care provider to focus a bright light on the area of interest for close examination.
With a disposable speculum, the doctor uses the instrument once and then discards it. Plastic is commonly used for these tools because it is relatively inexpensive, insert, and easy to work with. The speculum comes in sterile packaging to ensure that it is clean when it is used on a patient. The physician can also be assured that the speculum is not being reused by accident, as it should be provided in sealed packaging.
Speculums designed for ear and eye inspections are usually designed to fit onto devices like otoscopes. The disposable speculum fits onto clips at the end and is changed between patients, while the otoscope is wiped down so that it can be reused. Since examinations of ears and eyes are common in clinical settings, it is not uncommon for a disposable speculum dispenser to be fitted onto the wall of an exam room so that clinicians can quickly access clean instruments when they need them. Sizes are varied for patients of different sizes and are clearly marked on the dispenser.
In the case of bladed speculums designed to hold body cavities open for examinations and procedures, the devices also come in a range of sizes and styles for different applications. One advantage of using a plastic disposable speculum is that people can visualize the sides of the body cavity through the clear plastic blades. This can allow clinicians to spot cellular changes and anatomical variations that might be hidden behind a reusable metal speculum.