medical industry

What is Polyurethane Used for in the Medical Industry?

Few industries benefit as much from polyurethane properties as those in the medical device / healthcare industry. Polyurethane products, such as medical films and tubing can be direct replacements for other synthetics that have multiple drawbacks. Because polyurethane material is formed from pure polymers — long, stable molecular chains chemically bound to each other — it offers better biocompatibility with almost no disadvantages.

For example, natural rubber latex, long used for gloves and parts requiring strength and elasticity, contains natural components such as tree proteins and chemicals that can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Polyurethane medical products are well tolerated, both internally and externally. Additionally, with the antimicrobial properties of TPU, use of polyurethane only makes sense in the medical world.

What is polyurethane used for most often in healthcare settings?

Polyurethane Medical Film

Medical grade films have practically revolutionized breathable wound dressings. Since wounds heal faster and fight off infections naturally when they remain dry, the importance of a water barrier is paramount. With the capacity to create one-way permeability, medical device manufacturers now produce polyurethane film for wound coverings that repel water while permitting vapor dispersion away from the wound. Sterile fabrics applied with tape have obvious vulnerabilities, but thin, adhesive medical films fully adhere to the entire affected area to protect surgical and trauma wounds from getting wet at critical stages of healing.

Other common uses of urethane medical films include:

  • Surgical drapes
  • Surgical gowns
  • Operating room drapes
  • Hospital sheets and pads
  • Shower and privacy curtains
  • Lavage and drainage bags
  • Wound care

Polyurethane Disposables

Because a large number of medical products are considered one-time use, switching to urethane products helps the environment as much as it does patients and healthcare professionals. Lacking the plasticizers of other supple film products, polyurethane applications that end up in the incinerator or landfill won’t poison the air, ground, or water. Urethane uses for disposable items most commonly include:

  • Catheters
  • Surgical gloves
  • Medical bags
  • Tubing
  • Organ Retrieval Bags
  • Oxygen cannulas
  • Machinery drapes
  • Instrument covers
  • Probe sheaths

Polyurethane Medical Sheet for Medical Inflatables

Hospitals and other care facilities take full advantage of polyurethane medical sheaths and films in the form of pneumatic bladders. Since the chemistry allows it to be formulated to be both flexible and impermeable, medical applications of polyurethane include inflatable devises such as:

  • Hospital mattresses
  • Intra-aortic balloon pumps
  • Pressure systems such as intermittent pneumatic compression machines
  • Blood pressure cuffs and inflation bulbs

Various Medical Device Applications

Wherever soft-feel, flexible, stretchable solid materials that are non-toxic to tissue and blood are needed, polyurethane comes into play. Due to its particularly stable long-column molecular structure, device manufacturers prefer urethane for very fine tubing and separator components in a multitude of medical devices. A few examples are:

  • Kidney dialysis machines
  • Intravenous drug delivery systems

Other formulations help increase efficacy in:

  • Ventilator tubes and compression bladders
  • Post-op positioning devices
  • Heat / Cool therapy systems

Because urethane polymers can be put to use in applications where other materials fail in the finer work — such as very narrow tubing, anti-microbial coatings, and non-toxic films — medical devices have become safer, more reliable, and longer lasting with urethane products. When human biology and compatible synthetics mesh, any number of innovative, life-saving uses will surely come on line in the future.

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