medical devices and silicone
Recently, Fast Company reported that an implant that can one day fix spinal cords and let people walk again. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, have developed the e-Dura, which is said to be a “tiny, skin like device that attaches directly to damaged spinal cords”.

Stephanie Lacour, a professor from the Institute, mentioned that the purpose of the neuro-prosthesis is to excite the neurons that are on the spinal cord and activate them, as if they were receiving information coming from the brain.The e-Dura was first tested in rats, and is currently being developed for humans as well. In the report, it is said that the project raised several intrigues as to “how something so inanimate be attached to something as sensitive as a spinal cord”. With that in mind, Lacour informed the public that the material is a “simple, silicone polymer- a sympathetic, malleable and very thin” element. She also mentioned that the material can be made a single micron thick.

The report above can be considered a proof as to how silicones are currently getting attention in the medical industry. Managers, engineers and product designers alike, are updated to the rapid growth of silicones and its increasing applications in adhesives, coatings, industrial insulations, automotive, as well as in the medical field.

Silicones are some of the most broadly bio-tested materials, used in the creation of medical devices such as drains and respiratory devices, surgical incision tubes, urological catheters, and even valves and o-rings. Research has it that silicones’ biocompatibility, biodurability, and resiliency makes it an exceptional choice for applications that come into direct contact with the body. With these, silicone rubber is widely used in both reusable and disposable materials in the medical field.

Silicones’ biocompatibility can be owed to its molecular structure of dimethylsiloxane. Its odd structure – a mixture of silicon and oxygen atoms, gives it superior resistance to various, extreme temperature. Over the years, silicone rubbers have revealed its compatibility with the human body. Known for its odorless and tasteless characteristics, silicones are never prone to bacteria growth and it contains no additives. Thus, silicones have undergone its compliance to the FDA, ISO and Tripartite’s biocompatibility standards.

Silicones’ biodurability can be proven by its inert stable compounds. Compared to others, it is more well-founded that it can endure a wide temperature range and has a lower compression set than polyurethane. As a result, silicones’ electrical insulation abilities and valuable lot-to-lot consistency makes it suitable for use in most medical devices.

Because of its significant tear of up to 250ppi, tensile strength of up to 1500psi, and a flexibility of up to 1250%, silicones’ resiliency is not a question at all. With these details in mind, medical experts and professionals can confidently get an access to proven resilient and flexible silicone rubber materials.

Common silicone medical components include, (but are not limited to):

  • Balloon catheters
  • Airways
  • Drainage
  • Tubing for feeding
  • Peristaltic pumps
  • Electrosurgical handpieces
  • Infusion sleeves
  • Trocar seats
  • Lubricants
  • Test chambers
  • Surgical instruments
  • Sheaths
  • Wire/fluid-path coextrusions
  • Ear plugs/ Hearing aids
  • Stoppers
  • Compression bars
  • Adhesives for dressings
  • Respiratory masks
  • Diaphragm pumps
  • Scar management products
  • Clips

Even if suitable and proven for most medical components, silicone rubber manufacturers still have to go through thorough examination, design assistance, prototyping and part testing to better provide the medical industry the safest, most flexible and most cost- efficient silicone rubbers; alongside its continuing successes in most industries.