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Modern Medical Tubing for Medical Device Downgauging

Today advances in minimally invasive techniques are extremely important to medical industry and the clinical community. The challenge is to forge a different path for accessing anatomy that was previously accomplished via open surgery procedures. From an end-user perspective, minimally invasive techniques offers huge benefits in terms of cost, procedure time, recovery, patient comfort and improved efficacy. Better yet, the idea isn’t limited to the vascular procedures, such as stenting and balloon angioplasty, that are most often associated with minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures. Advances in device design that afford improved access require delivery catheters with lower profiles, i.e. smaller outer diameters, without sacrificing real estate inside the catheter.

This is driving the need for advances in polymer extrusion technology and other processes and components for minimally invasive devices. This paradigm shift in approach from open surgery to minimally invasive access would not be possible without the co-evolution of polymer extrusion technology.

Today, Medical tube manufacturers offer more properties, more material options, and more precise process control than ever before. At the same time, there’s a lot less to their products than there used to be. Tubes have also shrunk dramatically in recent years, to the point where a human hair is thick compared with some tube walls.

Though small, specialty tubing can cost many times more than conventional high-volume tubes. By far, the biggest trend in the device industry is downgauging. These diminutive tubes are used to make catheters that can be inserted into the cardiovascular system. The smaller the catheter, the farther it can travel in a network of arteries of diminishing size. Supersmall catheters also cause less trauma when inserted into the body.

Precision Extrusion makes tubing with walls about a quarter as thick as a human hair. And some of Advanced Polymers’ tubes have such thin walls that they can take the place of coatings. While reducing the outside diameter (OD) of their products, tubing manufacturers want to maintain as large an inside diameter (ID) as possible. Larger IDs give doctors more room to insert tools or deliver drugs into the body. Multilayer tubes are sometimes made in a series of steps. “It’s an extrusion process combined with an assembly process. Although multilayer tubes offer valuable combinations of properties, they’re “astronomically expensive” compared with conventional tubes.







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