BUZZY Reduces Pain and Fear of Needle Sticks

Buzzy: Drug Free Pain Control

Buzzy: Drug Free Pain Control Interview with:
Amy Baxter MD
CEO MMJ Labs LLC Would you tell us a little about your background? How did you develop an interest in pain management and prevention?

Amy Baxter MD CEO MMJ Labs LLC

Dr. Amy Baxter

Response: As a pediatric emergency doctor, I found it interesting that doctors could prevent pain but sometimes couldn’t be bothered to do so. The lack of empathy and impatience is built into emergency training – we learn to diagnose and fix things quickly, not comfort and support. I decided to research how pain management would make procedures more successful, or faster, to convince doctors to use pain management for THEIR benefit. What is the background for the Buzzy(r) device? How does it impact pain sensation?

Response: When my 4 year old had a horrible vaccination experience, I realized that a fast effective parent-controlled option for pain relief was needed. I knew that cold running water could eliminate the pain from a burned finger using physiology called gate control. Basically, the small pain nerves run alongside big motion nerves, so if you heavily stimulate motion you scramble the pain sensation. Rubbing a bumped elbow is another good example. Vibration alone didn’t work enough for needles, but when I added ice the two sensations of cold and motion eliminated pain in 84% of seniors getting a flu shot. We got a grant from the NIH to develop and study Buzzy – it’s a palm sized vibration unit with a place on the back to attach ice “wings”, that freeze solid. You put them both where an injection will go for a minute or less, then move them “between the brain and the pain” while doing a needle procedure. There are about 14 studies on IV access or blood draws and 6 on injections, showing between 50 and 88% pain reduction.

Several studies have demonstrated that Buzzy is truly a physiologic intervention, not a distraction: it didn’t work for injections when only used for 10 seconds, too little time to block the pain nerves. But it worked really well for blood draws in severely cognitively impaired children for whom distraction wasn’t an option. Who are the ideal candidates for use of the Buzzy device? What groups/hospitals/physicians etc are employing Buzzy now?

Response: The ideal Buzzy patient is about 6 years old or older – they get control holding the device or decreased fear knowing it’s going to help, and the ice and vibration combo get more effective the older kids get. Unfortunately the ice packs are too cold for some people, particularly small children. Ice induces another physiologic principle called descending inhibition: the body tries to block out intense signals before they get painful. Kids aren’t born with it, but it grows stronger as people age, so our physiology is about 15% more powerful for older adults.

The biggest groups of patients buying Buzzy for home use are patients on frequent or burning injections: autoimmune meds like Humira, IVF, Lovenox, or patients with cancer or diabetes who have lots of sticks. This year FluMist is unavailable, so we expect parents and the 24% of adults who don’t like shots are likely to turn to Buzzy.

Hospital use has jumped. Two studies have found Buzzy is equivalent to LMX, a topical anesthetic that makes a blood draw take 40.5 minutes start to finish and costs $4-6. Buzzy blood draws took 3.5 minutes, so hospitals can offer pain control without slowing flow. Two other studies found Buzzy improved the ease of phlebotomy, so in concert hospitals all over the world have started using Buzzy for lab draws – it’s reusable, as little as $0.20 per use, and improves patient satisfaction scores. We’re in about 5000 hospitals and clinics, with dialysis centers, vein thrombosis centers, and infusion centers trialing us for widespread use. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Nonpharmacologic neuromodulation is a fast and inexpensive way to address pain. Learning how to use Buzzy correctly is important, as with any new tool. Needle pain management matters to patients, and saves time and staff for the very anxious or fainting-prone patient. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: In general, one source of healthcare workers’ stoicism about their patients’ needle pain is that we personally don’t fear needles. This can lead to disdain about the importance of needle pain. Needle fear has jumped 252% in the past two decades, because we’re now giving six times the number of childhood injections we did before 1983. Millenials and younger kids have a greater negative memory of healthcare – up to 63% now fear needles. Judging or viewing needle fear as a personal weakness can get in the way of providing good care. To support adherence in our patients, being aware of needle pain options and letting patients on injected medications know you realize needles can be a barrier are critical.

Also, when you have a patient who has to have a painful procedure, addressing pain isn’t enough – decrease their fear by letting them know you get it and have ways to help, and learn distraction techniques that can reduce pain by 50% all by themselves.

bibliography Buzzy:

Sweet video of buzzy for a flu shot, kid: Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on August 15, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD