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Plastics are advancing medical technology Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 21, 2014 in Science
Plastics help advance the safety and effectiveness of modern medicine. Moreover, plastics enable new advances that deliver more benefits to patients than ever before. To find out more, Digital Journal spoke with Canada's leading medical association.
Plastics are changing medical technology in ways unimaginable a decade ago. Plastics have made health care simpler and less painful. Plastics are not only more hygienic, they are more flexible, and, in some cases, aesthetically-designed medical devices look more like consumer appliances.
Plastics as medical devices can be disposable and non-disposable. Examples of non-disposable devices include machines and instruments, diagnostic equipment, surgical and dental instruments, prostheses, and implants. Examples of disposable devices include bandages, gloves, blood bags, colostomy bags, catheters, syringes, intravenous kits, and tubing.
To find out more about advances in plastics for medical devices, Digital Journal spoke with Darlene Gray, who works for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
Darlene Gray listed out some examples of emerging innovations involving plastics:
3D Printed Plastic Implants
In keeping with other innovations with 3D printing, surgeons have replaced 75 percent of a patient’s skull with an implant made from a polyetherketoneketone biomedical polymer. This is a medical grade plastic that is designed with a density and stiffness similar to bone. To produce the implant, scientists used a 3D printer to construct layers of plastic, using a computer aided design image of the patient’s skull. This process enabled a customized fit. Scientists predict that similar technology will eventually be used for a range of different implants throughout the body.
Therapeutic Plastic Coatings
Scientists are developing plastic coatings that could improve the effectiveness of medical implants and also prevent their rejection by the body. Some medical implants are coated with plastics that are antimicrobial, designed to lower the risk of bacterial infection.
Dissolving Plastic Stents
Recent advances in medical plastics have allowed for the development of bioresorbable plastic stents. Such devices can be used to open blocked blood vessels. Such bioresorbable plastics also can be formulated to release drugs to the surrounding area.
Electronic Plastic Implants
Small electronic implants may one day help medics to learn more about what is happening inside the body. Scientists are embedding electronics in specially designed plastics that are rigid when implanted but later become soft inside the body, in order to fit around bone.
Self-Healing Plastic Implants
Medics are experimenting with self-healing plastics to design medical implants that could potentially repair themselves if they break. This would remove the need for surgery to repair or replace damaged implants.
In a different way, plastics have also helped reduce the weight of eyeglass frames and lenses. Plastics also provide vision-impaired consumers with another option: contact lenses.
The age of the chip is gone, it seems as if we are in the era of the plastic revolution.
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