How has Plastic Helped to Advance Modern Day Medicine?

19.04.2016

Plastic may gain a bad reputation for taking over 450 years to biodegrade, but many people forget about the many positive ways that this relatively new material can aid humankind, especially in our quest for superior medical care.

Modern medicine evolves every day, but also faces new challenges and obstacles on a regular basis; plastic has made life more comfortable, cost effective and hygienic for doctors and patients all over the world.

Infections Are Less Prominent Than Ever

Before the introduction of disposable medical equipment, infections that were frequently transmitted in wards and in surgery were frequently just as deadly as the diseases that sent patients to the hospital in the first place. 

In 1847, a Hungarian scholar by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that childbed fever was a disease created and spread by unclean hands and equipment in hospitals throughout Europe. Nowadays, thanks to proper training and the introduction of plastic equipment, these kinds of infections are for the most part, a thing of the past.

The Introduction Of Plastic In Hospitals

Prior to the introduction of plastic medical equipment, apparatus was typically made from other more expensive materials, meaning it had to be reused because it was too costly to replace. Failure to clean and disinfect the equipment sufficiently between patients meant that this reuse often led to infection.

Some simple but very important plastic equipment found in hospitals today includes:

  • Bed Pans
  • IV Tubes
  • Plastic Cups
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Disposable Gowns

Comfort & Style In Eyewear

Do you remember those larger than life glasses our older generations had to put up with? Well thanks to plastics such as xylonite and cellulose acetate propionate, glasses are lighter and more effective and we are able to make a fashion statement with them thanks to the huge choice and variety that becomes more colourful and trendier each year.

Xylonite, makes it possible to create unique layered glasses frames that can make them disappear from your visual field, making glasses easier to grow accustomed to for first time users, and this material is also very cost effective.

If you are looking for the lightest possible material for your glasses, Cellulose acetate propionate is an excellent option. This nylon-based plastic has literally revolutionised modern eyewear.

A large percentage of modern lenses are made from plastic, making them more durable and less likely to break. For those people who simply refuse to wear glasses regardless of the material, there are always contact lenses, most of which are also made of plastic nowadays.

Plastic Offers Us Safer Options

From a simplistic point of view, plastic is a less hazardous material than metal. Some surgical tools are now made of plastic, and most heart valves are manufactured using a transparent plastic that is easier to insert and observe.

Child safety has improved due to the introduction of tamper proof plastic caps that prevent children from accessing medicines (and chemicals) that are not intended for them.

Plastic also helped to solve the riddle of the MRI machine. An MRI machine works miracles in the field of radiology, however it also acts as a giant magnet that attracts any metal object within range and as such, can become a hazardous weapon.

Nowadays all equipment situated near an MRI machine is fabricated from plastic, as are the tools that are used to install the MRI.

Is Plastic the Future?

Plastic has already revolutionised modern medicine the world over but what next? Is there a new material that will surpass plastic just as plastic did with metal?

Plastics ability to mould and change shape easily means it is in high demand in the prosthetics industry where the quality of the items produced has gone from strength to strength. As a far more cost effective and functional material than those previously used in the manufacture of prosthetics, plastic is of huge importance to growing children, who require an updated prosthetic on a regular basis.

As it stands, plastic still has a lot more to give to medicine as its unique relationship with the 3D printer currently has the world watching. 3D printed replicas of vital human organs can be used to train surgeons in a completely new way. Plastic is here to stay and still has a lot more to offer to the world of medicine...

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