Modern healthcare relies on many plastic-based medical products: from disposable syringes, through intravenous blood bags to heart valves, and many more.
Modern healthcare would be impossible without the many plastic-based medical products we take for granted. Did you ever have a look around during a doctor visit? Plastics are everywhere, from exam gloves to sterile syringes and adhesive bandage strips from intravenous blood bags to IV tubes or heart valves Plastics packaging is particularly suitable for medical applications. Thanks to its exceptional barrier properties, it safely guards against contamination. Innovations in plastics are making new procedures possible. Just think of an artificial plastic heart, of bacteria-resistant plastics or of body parts tailored to the needs of the patient and printed in the 3D printer.
Unblocking blood vessels
In the latest heart surgery, thin tubes (catheters) are used to unblock blood vessels, while deposits obstructing them can be broken down with a tiny spiral-shaped implant – a vessel support. Positioned in the treated artery, it is made of a plastic developed specifically for the medical field and charged with active substances.
Plastics are now being used as orthopedic devices, where they align, support or correct deformities. they can even improve the function of movable parts of the body or replace a body part, taking over its main function. Synthetic material also plays a vital role for diseased arteries that cannot be helped via vessel support. An affected section of the aorta is removed and the gap is bridged by a flexible plastic prosthesis. Thanks to this, the body’s lifeline becomes fully functional again.
Eye injuries or chronic inflammations, for example corneal erosion, can impair sight, and if a transplant has little chance of success, a prosthesis is the only hope. Artificial corneas made from special silicone are now available for treatment. Only 0.3 to 0.5 millimetres thick, highly transparent, flexible and made of bio-mechanics similar to a natural cornea, it can restore clear vision again.
People with severely impaired hearing can now have a plastics implant that brings sound back in their ears. This implant consists of numerous components – a microphone, a transmission device connected to a micro-computer worn on the body, a stimulator and an electrode carrier with 16 electrodes for 16 different frequency ranges. As it transforms acoustic impulses into electrical ones, it bypasses the damaged cells and stimulates the auditory nerve directly.
Plastic pill capsules
Plastics pill capsules release exactly the right dosage of its active ingredients at the right time. The tartaric acid-based polymer gradually breaks down, slowly releasing the active ingredients over a longer period of time. These tailor-made pharmaceuticals help to avoid having to frequently take large quantities of pills.