Just one word — bioresorbability. Biocompatible polymers used with implants can be engineered to dissolve in the body over a specific period of time, preventing a second surgical procedure to remove the implant or parts of it following healing. There are many examples, but a recent one developed by Elixir Medical has been called the “holy grail of vascular restoration.” A thin polymer coating joins three metallic strands to provide radial strength during implant and resorbs after six months.
Environmental-minded consumers may sniff at single-use products, but they might think twice if they have a medical emergency. Single-use medical devices — typically injection molded or extruded plastic products — reduce the potential for cross contamination, because they do not have to be cleaned and sterilized after each use. Many patients have gotten ill and some have died because of contaminated reusable devices. You may recall a type of medical endoscope that caused bacterial infections and was linked to several deaths a few years back. The design of the device made it difficult to thoroughly disinfect; the company countered that medical personnel did not follow proper disinfection procedures. Whatever — re-use of the device was at the root of several tragic episodes that could have been avoided.
As we all know, cost is a huge issue in healthcare. Mass production of single-use plastic devices, usually via injection molding, significantly reduces manufacturing costs. Think plastic-based syringes, insulin pens, and countless other drug-delivery systems.