Definition: A general term which describes a textile structure which has been designed and produced for use in any of a variety of medical applications, including implantable applications.
An important and growing part of the textile industry is medical, hygiene and health sector. The extent of growth is due to the development and improvement of knowledge in both textile as well as medical sector.
The engineering approach to develop textile products that will be suitable for medical and surgical application should possess a combination of the following properties
Strength, flexibility, and sometimes moisture and air permeability.
Materials include natural fibre, monofilament as well as multifilament yarns.
The textiles used in medical and surgical purposes can be classified as follows:
- Nonplantable materials-Wound dressing, bandages, plasters etc.
- Extracorporeal devices– artificial kidney, liver, and lung
- Implantable materials-suture, vascular grafts, artificial ligaments, artificial joints, etc.
- Healthcare/hygiene products-bedding, clothing, surgical gowns, cloths, wipes etc.
Fibers used in medical application may be classified as follows:
1. According to source of origin
- Natural- Cotton and silk most widely used
- Synthetic- Viscose, polyester, polyamide, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polypropylene, carbon, glass, and so on.
2. According to biological resistance
- Biodegradable- Fibers which are absorbed by the body within 2-3 months time after implantation and include Cotton, Viscose rayon, polyamide, polyurathene, collagen, and alginate, polycaprolactone, polypropiolactone.
- Non biodegradable-Fibers that are absorbed by the body slowly and take more than six months time to degrade are considered as non biodegradable. Non-biodegradable fibers and include polyester (e.g. Dacron), polypropylene, PTFE and carbon.
Fiber used in medical textiles must fulfill the following criterion-
- The fibers must be nontoxic
- Must be non-allergenic
- Must be non-carcinogenic
- Must be able to be sterilized without impairing any change in their physical or chemical characteristics.
- Where necessary biodegradable
- Where necessary non biodegradable;
- Compatible with most living systems
- Versatile in their physical form, i.e. powder, aqueous solutions, films, shaped objects, fibres and sponges, and
- Vehicles for transporting and delivering drugs.
Traditionally cotton, silk and viscose have long been used for medical and surgical purposes. One such area of application is wound care, where moisture and liquid exude from the wound is absorbed by the fibrous structure to promote healing in relatively dry conditions.
However upon healing small fibrous elements protruding from the wound dressing are usually trapped in the pores of the newly formed tissues which make their removal distressing to the patients.
Research show that wound under moist condition would in fact heal better and faster, which would also remove the problem of fibres being trapped in the healing wound.