Polyurethanes are commonly used in a number of medical applications including catheter and general purpose tubing, hospital bedding, surgical drapes, wound dressings, as well as in a variety of injection molded devices. Their most common use is in short-term implants.

Today’s polyurethanes have been formulated to provide good biocompatibility, flexural endurance, high strength, high abrasion resistance and processing versatility over a wide range of applications. These attributes are important in supporting new applications continually being found by medical device manufacturers including artificial hearts, catheter tubing, feeding tubes, surgical drains, intra-aortic balloon pumps, dialysis devices, non-allergenic gloves, medical garments, hospital bedding, wound dressings and more.

Polyurethanes can outperform many other materials in flexibility, tear resistance and abrasion resistance. This is because many devices that are used in these areas can rub against other materials and bend repeatedly. Without polyurethanes, the continued rubbing and bending could result in the device weakening or could cause failure in extreme cases.

TPU’s, also known as polyurethane elastomers, have molecular structures similar to that of human proteins. Protein absorption, which is the beginning of the blood coagulation cascade, was found to be slower or less than other materials. This makes them ideal candidates for a variety of medical applications requiring adhesive strength and unique biomimetic and antithrombotic properties. For example, TPU’s are currently being used as a special sealant to bind bundles of hollow fibers in artificial dialysis cylinders.

With the advent of new surgical implants, biomedical polyurethanes can lead the way to eliminate some acute and chronic health challenges. Polyurethanes are popularly used in cardiovascular and other biomedical fields due to their good biocompatibility as well as their mechanical properties. Many of these polyurethanes have elastomeric properties that are accompanied by toughness, tear resistance and abrasion resistance. They have been widely used in applications such as the artificial heart and pacemaker lead insulation, among others.

Patients using polyurethane medical devices may prefer them to other materials due to their comfort. They can be used in many soft elastomeric medical applications such as indwelling catheters and vascular access. Soft polyurethanes can be more comfortable yet stronger than other soft materials, which makes them a unique material for this application.

Polyurethanes made significant contributions to the medical industry. By virtue of their range of properties, they will continue to play an important role in the future of science and medicine.

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