Uses of Plastic in the Medical Field

Plastic materials have been used for almost every kind of application and industry. In fact, you may have even spotted some of their uses at home. From cooking ware, food storage, to electronics, various types of plastic components and small parts are present in any shape, way, or form. 

 

Aside from everyday household items, plastic has also been useful in industries like the medical field. There is no surprise to this because the material has a number of properties that make it preferable over metal, for example. 

 

In medicine, precision, safety, and non-contamination are all important. Plastic polymers in this industry can come in HDPE, ABS, polypropylene, polyethylene, and many more. They have been useful in manufacturing thermometer medical devices like digital thermometers, catheters, ear implants, syringes, pill casings, synthetic components, and the like. Continue reading to learn more.

 

Thermometers

 

Thermometers are some of the most widely-used applications for plastic. These compact, yet effective devices are generally used for taking temperature measurements and determining if an individual records an unusually high temperature. Although the plastic material is just but one aspect of the device, it still provides enough support to house all the micro-components while also preventing cross-contamination.

 

Various types of digital thermometers exist. Some of them may be non-contact, while some are designed to record temperature readings for specific parts of the body — i.e. ear thermometers or forehead thermometers. The plastic components are water-resistant and are safe for both internal and external use, making sure that there are no harmful chemicals that may spread with their use. 

 

Catheters

 

Another use of plastic can be found in the tiny tubes that are oftentimes inserted in the body of a patient. These small materials are used to facilitate the flow of urine for those having urinary issues, while also helping to slightly expand a small artery. 

 

For catheters, the main material used is a plastic called PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride. One advantage of this over metal catheters, for example, is that the plastic can come in a translucent form. This gives both medical providers and the patient the ability to see clearly in cases of invasive procedures. 

 

On the other hand, for medical patients that have allergies on other plastics, like latex, PVC catheters serve as safer and far better alternatives. 

 

Medicine Bottles

 

There are various plastic manufacturing techniques that are used to come up with hollow products, such as pill bottles. These are used in storing vitamins, pills, or any tablet-like substance. 

 

Medicine bottles are usually made with PET (polyethylene terephthalate) or in some cases also HDPE (high-density polyethylene). Most pill bottles come with a tamper-proof cap or covering that’s also made with plastic and sports a threaded design. 

 

Aside from the other properties of plastic mentioned before — non-corrosive and chemical resistant — plastic medicine bottles are hygienic. This is to ensure that every pill stored inside them will be safe for consumption of the individual.

 

Ear Implants

 

For those suffering from severe hearing loss, a device called an ear implant is oftentimes attached to the patient. Although the implants do not have the ability to restore 100% of sound prior to the condition, this does help the user amplify external sounds that can be adjusted according to the patient’s preference.

 

Ear implants may vary in design, but they typically include an inner-ear device and a head seat that may sometimes include a speech processor. For BTE or behind-the-ear implants, for example, the outer piece made of plastic is securely fitted to the user’s ear. 

 

The plastic material doesn’t cause any irritation or discomforts that can cause minor abrasions or wounds on the patient. Furthermore, the material is also lightweight, giving the patient a great level of comfort. 

 

Gloves

 

Another common use of plastic materials in medicine are surgical gloves which are worn by a medical professional. These gloves are stretchable and oftentimes come in one-size-fits-all.

 

Medical gloves are often made out of rubber, latex, or sometimes PVC. As mentioned before, some may experience allergies due to the latex material, which is why there are other polymer-based alternatives present. Nevertheless, the use of plastic in this situation is advantageous especially in materials handling, surgeries, and other medical-related operations. 

 

Syringes

 

Like gloves, syringes are also designed for one-time use. The most ideal material is polypropylene plastic (PP) due to its sterileness and non-water resistant properties. This makes it easier for nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals to administer drugs and medicines in fluid form. 

 

A syringe has multiple parts, namely the plunger, storage compartment or the body, gasket, needle holder, and other rubber-based components. Most of these can be fabricated through the injection molding process, especially since the parts need to be precise and be produced in high volumes. 

 

Key Takeaway

 

The medical field involves the use of different plastic materials. As discussed in the article, some plastics you’ll find include polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC, latex, and rubber. They are preferred over other metal-based materials due to the plastic’s flexibility, non-corrosion, chemical-resistance, and lightweightness.

 

Although plastic is used for many everyday applications, there’s no doubt that it’s still an integral part in medical device manufacturing. Professionals in medical and pharmaceutical industries will no doubt continue taking advantage of many available plastics in the market.

 

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