News | 10 August 2020

Analgesic 'bee' gives relief to dialysis patients

Local anaesthetic through vibration and cold helps ease fear of needles

A small device shaped like a bee is easing the pain of repeated needle pricks in dialysis patients. This offers a solution in particular for people with a needle phobia. The handy little device is already being used with young patients on the paediatric ward, but Maastricht UMC+ is now introducing it on the dialysis ward for the first time in the Netherlands.

Analgesic 'bee' Analgesic 'bee' Under normal circumstances, the kidneys remove harmful substances from the blood. If these organs no longer function properly, the people affected have to undergo dialysis. In this procedure, a patient is hooked up to a dialysis machine, which takes a few hours to filter and clean the blood as thoroughly as possible. Such patients have to go to hospital for dialysis on average three times a week, which has a considerable impact on their daily lives.

For the connection to the dialysis machine, two punctures have to be made in the patient's arm, using a needle that is significantly thicker than a normal hypodermic needle, for example for a vaccination. "Although patients are used to it, it isn't a pleasant experience," says dialysis nurse Liesbeth de Boer. "Particularly if you're already scared of needles." For this reason, De Boer and her colleague Elke Roox took a look at the paediatric ward at Maastricht UMC+. For children with a fear of needles, care staff there use a small device that produces an analgesic effect.

Dialysis nurse Liesbeth de Boer at workDialysis nurse Liesbeth de Boer at workLocal anaesthetic
The device is in the shape of a bee and it uses a combination of vibration and cold to relieve pain when the skin is punctured. Simply holding the device for a minute on the part of the skin to be punctured produces a local anaesthetic effect. De Boer: "You actually confuse the nerves in a very specific place, so that the pain stimuli are no longer transmitted." The initial experiences have been positive and according to the dialysis nurse, some patients swear by the device: "It's sometimes the little things that can make it just a bit more pleasant and enable us to reduce the fear of dialysis."