Plastics in Medicine

Plastic is defined as any material that is part of a huge range of semi-synthetic or synthetic solids that are used in creating industrial products. Usually, plastics are polymers that feature a high molecular mass, and often incorporate other substances to both improve the appearance or function as well as lower production costs. The word “plastic” has its roots in the Greek word “plastikos,” which translates into “capable of being molded or shaped”. Plastic is renowned for being very malleable as it is being manufactured, which enables plastic to be machined, cast, extruded or pressed into a variety of shapes.

The use of plastics revolutionized the field of medicine making patients safer, and procedures simpler. For example, doctors experienced difficulties when the MRI machine was first introduced. An MRI is basically a giant magnet with the the ability to attract any metal object within range. Metal objects situated too close to the the MRI machine could become airborne and dangerous if they should fly towards the magnetized unit. Today, all of the equipment that surrounds an MRI is created out of plastic to guard against this. Even tools utilized to install the MRI are fabricated out of plastic.

The incorporation of plastic into modern medicine has steadily increased in the last decade. Plastics have contributed to a reduction in medical costs, infectious disease and pain management. High tech polymers are used to create new and improved artificial limbs and plastic disposable delivery devices have succeeded in reducing the risk of infection to patients. Patients directly benefit from the use of plastic with more lives being saved, improved and prolonged due to its use.

Thanks to the use of plastic, the US leads the world in keeping the rate of cross-staph infection down. This can be directly attributed to the wide use of plastic in the medical industry. Sterile plastic packaging and plastic medical disposables in particular have contributed to keeping the rates low.

Even for something as simple and commonplace as eyeglasses, plastics have improved people’s lives. The incorporation of plastics into the frames and lenses of eyewear has helped to reduce their weight and increase overall safety. Consumers who do not want to wear eyeglasses have the option of wearing contact lenses, which are also made of plastic.

Child safety has also improved as a result of the use of plastic. Decades ago, medical packaging did not have tamper-proof caps. Today almost all types of pharmaceutical packaging features tamper-proof seals. The introduction of child-resistant caps keeps potentially harmful medicine out of the hands of children.

Plastics in medicine have improved the quality of life for seniors and for those injured in accidents. Today’s artificial knees and hips rely on plastics to provide people with pain free movement and trouble-free joints. The gloves that surgeons wear use soft and pliable plastics that help maintain the sterile atmosphere of hospitals’ operating rooms. Plastics address healthcare needs both large and small from petri dishes in the lab, to the housing of large diagnostic medical machinery. Additional cost savings can come from the use of medical equipment and care that can now be provided at home, as portable, effective and simple medical devices are being designed for use by the patient in a home setting.

Lately, in the media, plastics have been getting a bad repuation.  Due in part to the fact that plastic is not bio-degradable. But it is not likely that anything can replace plastic in the field of medicine, or that its use will be reduced in the very near future. The medical industry has been greatly improved due to the incorporation of plastics across a whole range of uses in all fields of medicine. The medical industry has become safer as a result of the introduction of plastics. Ultimately the patients, and that’s you and me, benefit the most from the use of plastics in medicine.

To learn more about plastics, see these links.

  • Plastics & Health – All about the use of plastics in modern healthcare and the medical field.
  • Medical Field Plastics – Information on the prominent role that plastics play in the medical field.
  • ACC: Plastics: This website focuses on plastic as a material and its uses across many industries.
  • Enhancement of Life: This website furnishes you with all the ways that plastic impacts daily life.
  • Plastic Chart: This website presents a chart or table that explains the differing properties of different plastics.
  • Creation of Plastics: A Kid’s Guide to the invention of platics with some learning exercises.
  • Exploration of Plastics: This website relays information regarding the history of plastic and its uses over the years.