Putting out the fire after a tonsillectomy
When post-operative pain proves too much for his tonsillectomy patients, Douglas Mann, MD has just the thing to put out the flames.
It’s his Tonsil Fire Extinguisher, a palm-sized spray bottle device that the Falmouth otolaryngologist invented to treat the searing pain (like a throat “on fire”) associated with tonsillectomies.
The device looks like a miniature fire extinguisher.
“Young and old, my patients enjoy the fun design of the bottle,” said Dr. Mann. “Even better, they like having a powerful local anesthetic that gets right to the sore spots. Patients are still using Motrin or Tylenol to help with the pain, but those drugs can’t stop the sharp pains that happen every time they swallow.”
That’s where the Tonsil Fire Extinguisher comes in handy.
“A couple sprays on each side numb the surgical site and make drinking and eating possible,” Dr. Mann said.
According to Dr. Mann, the most common complication of tonsillectomy is dehydration, which can cause nausea and extreme weakness, and sometimes can require a return to the hospital for intravenous fluids. The use of this device has eliminated this problem in those patients who use the device successfully.
There are roughly 500,000 tonsillectomies done yearly in the United States, said Dr. Mann, who treats patients at Falmouth Hospital. The common procedure, which is administered on children and adults, is accompanied by a pain that the medical community realizes still begs for a good solution. Because the suffering is so acute, doctors often prescribe narcotics to their patients to help them eat and sleep.
“Doctors have tried all kinds of techniques to make the operation less painful, such as changing technique by trying lasers, cautery, and coblation. But, in the end people are still in a ton of pain afterwards,” Dr. Mann said. “In the past, I used to order viscous Lidocaine, a syrupy form of local anesthetic. The problem is that it would coat parts of the mouth and throat that didn’t need to be numbed and required a large dose that risked drug toxicity.
“I came up with the idea of a spray to target the drug to the area of the discomfort and improve safety by lowering the total amount of medication needed to do the job.”
To create the Tonsil Extinguisher, Dr. Mann took the device he already used in his office to deliver medication for minor procedures. He bought a larger supply and tried them on the post-operative tonsillectomy patients and they loved it, he said.
The problem with using those devices, however, was that they were expensive and he wanted something patients could afford.
“Necessity and my MBA degree led me to develop and manufacture this product in an affordable way for patients,” he said.
Many of Dr. Mann’s patients, who are featured in video testimonials on his website, describe not only being able to comfortably eat food and drink non-carbonated beverages after using the device, but being able to avoid using medications, like Oxycodone.
“In today’s age, we want to be able to move away from narcotics and the combination of the Lidocaine solution and the way the bottle is designed really helps in that mission,” Dr. Mann said.
The product has been available since April 2015, and Dr. Mann said there is already a lot of enthusiasm from the early adopters in the medical community. Physicians can get the devices to their patients in two ways. Many purchase the Tonsil Fire Extinguishers, fill it with medication at their office, and then provide it to their patients at little or no charge. Other doctors prefer to write a prescription to a mail order compounding pharmacy. The Tonsil Fire Extinguisher is available at the Cape Cod Healthcare Pharmacy at Stoneman Outpatient Center, with a prescription. The cost is $11.
“It’s been great fun designing both the product and the business, and taking the idea to the medical community,” said Dr. Mann. “We’ve gotten great feedback from all over the world with this.”
Looking into the future, Dr. Mann said he would like to eventually find an academic group of physicians to do a study that documents how well the Tonsil Fire Extinguisher works for patients.
“I’m really confident in the device and, of course, I’d like to see the business grow. It’s just a matter of getting to the point where enough people believe in it as much as I do, and I think that’s just around the corner.”