Recent Trends in Medical Plastics

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Published: 01st November 2012
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Summary: The use of plastics in medical applications is wide and varied. Ranging from implants to disposables there are numerous applications of medical plastics. With a clear path to achieve a much wider usage, improvisation seems to be the key buzz word for all types of plastics.

Generally, plastics refer to polymers that feature a high molecular mass and often incorporate substances to improve the appearance or function as well as lower production costs. The word ‘plastic’ has its root in the Greek word ‘plastikos’ meaning ‘capable of being molded or shaped’. Plastic is recognized for its malleability as it is being manufactured, which enables plastic to be machined, cast, extruded or pressed into various shapes. Today, the plastics industry has been revolutionized making the safety of patients and healthcare procedures simpler.

To cite an example, metal objects located near or around MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine carry high chances of being dangerous if they fly towards the magnetized unit. Therefore, today, in order to prevent this type of situation, all equipment that surrounds an MRI is made out of plastic. Even tools utilized to install the MRI are manufactured out of plastic.

Plastics in healthcare
The incorporation of plastic into healthcare has escalated in the last decade. Further plastics have helped bring the following changes:

• Huge contribution in reducing medical costs and helping in pain management
• High tech polymers are used in order to create innovative and improved artificial limbs and plastic disposable delivery devices have succeeded in reducing the risk of infection to patients
• Eyeglasses- The incorporation of plastics into the frames and lens of eyewear has helped in not only reducing weight, but also has increased the overall safety
• Further, consumers who do not want to wear eyeglasses have the option of wearing contact lens, which are also made of plastic
• Next, child safety has also improved as a result of plastic usage. The introduction of child-resistant caps keeps potentially harmful medicine out of reach of children
• Today, almost every all types of pharmaceutical packaging features tamper-proof seals
• Plastics in medicine have definitely improved the life for seniors and for those injured in accidents
• Gloves that surgeons wear mostly use soft and flexible plastics
• Today’s artificial knees and hips depend on plastics to provide people with pain free movements and trouble-free joints
• Plastics also cover the entire gamut of healthcare needs ranging from Petri dishes in the laboratory to the ones in large diagnostic medical machinery

Often-noticed trends

In the past few decades, plastics have made healthcare simpler and less painful and made new techniques and prostheses possible.
• Plastics are key components of modern prosthetic devices, providing comfort, flexibility, mobility and a life-like appearance
• Artificial hips and knees use plastics to help provide smoothly working, trouble-free joints
• For the latest heart surgeries, thin tubes (catheters) are used to unblock blood vessels, while deposits obstructing them could be broken down with tiny spiral-shaped implant-a vessel support
• Plastics are now also being used in orthopedic devices, where they support or correct several deformities
• Plastics can improve the function of movable parts of the body or replace a body part
• Synthetic material also plays an essential role for diseased arteries that cannot be helped via vessel support
• In some developed countries plastics are fresh and not reprocessed there, environmental friendly products find common usage

Malpractice and way-out

There are practically no challenges in this arena if all the requirements are followed, some being:
• Plastics should be used in exact composition. Hence, trials are mandatory in order to ensure that the plastics is non-toxic in nature and there is no deficiency in their quality
• Another important consideration for medical plastics is the plastic disposal and hence proper waste disposal methods need to be followed
• Products that are meant for single usage should be disposed off and others should be recycled
• Hospitals and clinics are suppose to burn plastic waste after use accordingly, but unfortunately they are throwing them away

Improvisation and suggestions

• Strict regulatory body that will control the requirement, usage and practices is needed, thus bringing in improvisation
• Research on light weight, bio compatible materials so that it becomes a trend of the industry and a strict regulatory environment will ensure the market growth

Ranging from disposable syringes to artificial implants to tailored medical packaging, the medical plastics industry is set to grow more in future.

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