How Polyurethane Is Used In The Medical Industry

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In any industry, an organization is considered to be on the cutting-edge when leadership figures out a way to spend less while improving efficiency—and overall, helping people. This goes for the customer’s, staff’s, and stakeholders’ end, alike. 

When all parties involved are happy, it’s virtually inevitable that you will further your bottom line. This is especially true in the healthcare space. Patients are not only satisfied when their clinicians prove to be skilled, but when the facility demonstrates prioritization of staying abreast of—and implementing the use of—the latest technology. Clinicians and other staff at the healthcare organization also benefit by doing better, more accurate, more results-driven work. 

It may be obvious why ideal patient outcomes lead to less stress and frustration, and a greater sense of fulfillment on their part, not just the patient’s. And having optimal supplies definitely helps these professionals do their jobs better, sending more elated customers out the door and even more back in when those patients tell their friends about the great quality of care provided at your practice. 

Let’s go over why it is that polyurethane has been the up and coming top material to stock at medical facilities. We’ll talk about what it is and the reasons it’s gaining popularity among the healthcare world.

What is Polyurethane, Anyway?

Polyurethane is a polymer gaining traction in the medical field. It’s a versatile material with a unique chemistry that can be used in applications where other materials simply will not do the job. 

Interestingly enough, the substance requires some rather sophisticated manufacturing processes, plus they can be more expensive than the average PVC compound. Thus, it may not be immediately apparent why this is chosen by medical device engineers over other materials. We encourage you to continue on with us if you’re curious to learn how advantageous polyurethane is and the explanation behind why so many are putting it to work.

How is Polyurethane Used in the Medical Industry?

Polyurethanes are tough, hemocompatible, and biocompatible. They can be rigid plastics or strong elastomers and can be processed using all sorts of techniques, from extrusion and injection molding to film-blowing, solution dipping, and even a two-part liquid molding. 

Since they’re segmented polymers, they have a softer segment that enables flexibility, as well as a harder segment that gives the necessary strength. They offer more chemical and yellowing resistance to provide better in-body integrity, as well as increased reliability and consistency in processing. 

The medical-grade polyurethanes have also proven resistant to oxidation, alcohol-swelling, and environmental stress-based cracking. The impressive substance is made up of three basic building blocks, out of which thousands of possible combinations can be created, scoring developers a plethora of options for device production.

How is Polyurethane Used in the Medical Industry?

Liquid polyurethanes are great for hollow-fiber devices. This includes vital blood-processing membrane equipment such as hemodialyzers, hemoconcentrators, and oxygenators. Silicones that were once used were weak and led to some tearing and leakage, rendering them less reliable. Epoxies and polyesters showed they were too rigid to allow for needed cutting. 

Catheters are another common supply found in hospitals that have custom polyurethane components, and so are pacemakers along with other devices that need to stay inside the body, long-term—this material is being utilized more and more, for good reason.

Polyurethane cuts down on time and costs in instances, for example, where other materials would produce bubbles and need to go through a more significant degassing process. Polyurethanes are additionally well-suited for dip-molded products like probe covers, balloons, gloves, and even condoms. 

Natural rubber latex may be more affordable upfront, but utilizing different types of polyurethane minimizes the chance of losing money to lawsuits and consumer facilities severing ties if dangerous allergic reactions occur. This is because, with polyurethanes, all chemicals used are fully bonded to each other, as pure polymer, so there are no extractable, intolerable chemicals. 

They’re also fantastic for glove-making due to their abrasion resistance, meaning that they can be made incredibly thin and still be effective. Not to mention, proper polyurethanes can pass crucial safety tests in the areas of cytotoxicity, pyrogenicity, and mutagenicity.

Some manufacturers are even working on drug-eluting polyurethane stent coverings, as patients with bare-metal stents have a higher rate of developing a blockage. They are pursuing the substance we are discussing in this article because they need something that will well-conform to the shape of the stent, and looking at its ability to stretch without breakage.

Thermoplastic polyurethanes are particularly valuable when it comes to wound dressings. This is due to their ability to keep out bacteria and fluid while still letting the wound breathe, so to speak.  

Adopting this Beneficial Material at Your Facility

As we learned, polyurethanes have been found to be quite advantageous in the medical field. Like with anything else, there are some downsides—however, improvements are always being made in biostability, and newer applications are being worked on all the time. 

As innovations continue to come to light and device developers discover further uses for medical-grade polyurethane, more healthcare facilities will without a doubt start to increase their buy-in. And with stronger, more versatile, and safer products coming out of all this, why wouldn’t they? 

Again, the substance simply enables medical professionals to do more in less time and for less money in the long-run—helping them become more effective at what they do, and efficient while they’re doing it to cut down on waste. In other words, it helps the experts help patients better, which is great news for developers. 

Those in the healthcare business who adopt this piece of the future will stay a step ahead of their competition. Will your facility start taking advantage of all that polyurethane has to offer the industry? Don’t get stuck in the past when there is so much good coming down the pipeline!

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