PVC is the most frequently used thermoplastic in the medical device industry. Initially developed to replace rubber and glass in flexible tubing and containers, the demand for single-use, pre-sterilized medical components exponentially increased the use PVC in hospitals and the healthcare environment. Today, it dominates the market for these items.
PVC is the most commonly used material for the storage of intravenous fluids, dialysis solutions, blood and blood products. It can be sterilized with steam at temperatures ranging from -40° C to 121° C. Additionally, PVC can be fixed using an ETO (Ethylene Oxide) and an Electron Beam Gamma Irradiation. PVC can also be joined using high-frequency welding – allowing for a wide variety of container shapes and attachments. Containers made of this type of PVC are more robust, have superior characteristics, and have a firmer surface.
PVC must undergo extensive toxicological testing before being used in medical devices. As a result, all materials used to manufacture components for devices must undergo extensive testing and evaluation before being approved for medical use. PVC is safe, based on available information from international environmental and health authorities.
Medical materials must be capable of accepting or conveying a variety of liquids without significantly altering their composition or properties. PVC has demonstrated its effectiveness in these areas.
Transparency and Clarity
PVC products can be formulated to be highly transparent, allowing for continuous monitoring of fluid flow. Additionally, it can be colour-coded in virtually any colour required.
When plastics come into direct contact with the tissue or blood, a high degree of compatibility between the tissue/blood and the material is required. This property becomes more significant the longer plastic is in contact with tissue or blood. PVC exhibits a high level of biocompatibility, which can be enhanced further through appropriate surface modification.
Flexibility, Robustness and Reliability
PVC is a popular choice for medical product designers because of its versatility. PVC offers the flexibility required for blood bags and IV containers and the strength and durability needed for use in various temperatures and environments. PVC can be extruded, thermoformed, blow-moulded to create IV tubing, blister packaging, or rigid hollow containers.
PVC accounts for nearly one-third of the cost of medical plastics today, and thus its low cost has a significant impact on the overall cost of medical plastics. A switch to a different type of plastic could cost the healthcare industry hundreds of millions of Rands annually.
SAVA hosted a webinar on the benefits of using PVC in the healthcare environment. In this video, Ole Grohndal Hanse of the PVC Med Alliance unpacks the science behind the claims.
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