This case involves an esthetician who was handling the components of a multifunction spa treatment device. The esthetician was holding the high-frequency electrode like a pencil as she inserted it into its handle. The electrode suddenly shattered and the broken glass severely cut her at the base of her right index finger. This caused her radial digital nerve to be severed. The unit had been designed by the manufacturer to require that the esthetician use their bare hand to apply force to insert the electrode into the handle. The esthetician was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) that affected the area of her right hand along the base of her middle finger, through the base of her thumb, and continuing towards her wrist. The esthetician also developed “trigger finger” which caused her right index finger to remain in a permanently flexed position. The esthetician was required to undergo treatment that involved pain medication and the use of stellate ganglion blocks. The esthetician eventually reached the point where the CRPS became permanent and was impossible to cure.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Is the glass electrode configuration on a spa treatment device unreasonably dangerous, and what could make the electrode shatter and cut someone?
Expert Witness Response
Spa treatment devices are used in skin care and work by using a current that is transmitted to the skin through the electrode and can kill harmful bacteria, can increase circulation under the skin and can also aid in the skin being able to absorb the chemicals in certain skin care products. The high-frequency function on a spa treatment device involves a high-frequency handle and a high-frequency glass electrode. The electrode must be inserted into the handle and this requires a certain insertion force to be used by the esthetician. The danger from using this device is that if the electrode is pushed too hard into the handle, the electrode may shatter and can cause severe cuts to an esthetician’s hand. The instructions for using the electrode that are usually provided by the manufacturer state that an esthetician should never “push” the electrode into the handle using the palm of the hand. The instructions also usually state that the esthetician should hold the electrode by the thumb and index finger when they are trying to insert the electrode into the handle. The problem with these devices is that many manufacturers fail to make it clear that there is a danger that the electrode might shatter, crack, or degrade if it is pushed regularly while being inserted in into the handle. The manufacturer in this case should have made it clear that repeated insertions of the electrode into the handle could cause it to shatter. Also, the manufacturer should have given clear directions that the esthetician should check the electrode for damage before trying to insert it into the handle. Also, the manufacturer should have given directions requiring estheticians to wear protective gloves to prevent cuts if the electrode shatters during insertion into the handle.