By Rhianna Dean, Account Manager
Medical textiles are critical components of implantable medical devices. Whether they’re designed for cardiovascular, general surgery, orthopedic, or neurovascular applications, implantable medical devices rely on many components that work together synchronously to enable and enhance patient quality of life. How do medical textiles fit into the big picture?
Medical textiles have many diverse applications. They’re typically used as flexible scaffolds or structures for tissue in-growth and implant integration, conduits or barriers for blood flow, and as a way to join materials and secure implants in the body. They’re also used for tissue reinforcement and wound support, joint support, and retrieving blood clots or preventing or reducing plaque debris in neurovascular applications.
One of the biggest challenges medical device engineers face during the design phase is selecting the right fabric materials and structures for a medical device, regardless of application. Ideally, device engineers should partner with a textile component supplier as soon as possible during the earliest stages of product development to optimize device design and avoid downstream biocompatibility issues. But how can a device manufacturer pinpoint the right textile partner?
Solving Medical Device Challenges with Textiles
The ideal medical textile partner is dedicated to finding textile solutions for medical devices. They don’t just see medical textiles as necessary components in a medical device—they see medical textiles as the solution to most device challenges, whether the final product is a left atrial appendage closure device, a surgical mesh, a load-bearing spinal tether, or a neurovascular flow diverter. Simply put, the expert medical textile supplier’s daily activities revolve around designing, developing, and enhancing medical textiles—all day, every day.
Because textile design is a very customized process, initial conversations should focus on the type of textile that would work best based on device requirements and end-use applications. Common questions that guide problem-solving for medical devices may include:
- Why will a braided textile work better for this application than a knit or woven textile?
- Does the textile need to be compressible and resilient? How thin or dense should it be?
- Why will a combination of two materials enable the desired functionality rather than just one?
- Does the textile need to be constructed of loop pile fabric? Low-profile fabric? Foam fabric?
True customization often begins after the prototyping stage. During the early design phase, suppliers can offer readily available samples and off-the-shelf fabrics to device engineers. This enables quicker proof-of-concept and prototyping, which ultimately accelerates the hand-off back to the textile team, who will fine-tune and scale-up the approved textile for the final device.
How Medical Textiles Are Made
The three textile-forming technologies are braiding, knitting, and weaving. Each technology produces a variety of textile constructs that exhibit specific characteristics based on the end use of the device, such as flexibility, porosity, and thickness. Here’s how these technologies are typically leveraged to create implantable textiles, along with their core benefits:
- Braided components typically comprise sutures, tubular coverings, wire stents, or stent frames. They are ideal for covering complex structures on frames (e.g., tubes or dynamic shapes) and can be used for foreshortening and expansion, preventing metal exposure, or holding a valve in place against native tissue.
- Knitted components are typically soft and compressible. They provide robust flexibility, smooth conformability, and potential for 3D porosity, making them ideal for materials that need to stretch over or cover an anatomical structure. Knit fabrics can add loft to a surface and can be applied for integration and blood wicking.
- Woven components are typically very thin, tight, and highly dense, and can be utilized to create complex, near-anatomical structures. The thinness of the material renders it packable within a catheter delivery system and makes it ideal for minimally invasive procedures. Woven textiles exhibit high permeability resistance without the bulk or elasticity of knit or braided materials, making them ideal blood conduits.
Most people think of t-shirt manufacturing when in the context of fabrics and textiles. Therefore, expert textile teams must educate medical device engineers about the benefits of textile design and structure—including why a braided, knit, or woven textile works best for a specific application—and offer ways to modify a fabric construct based on device requirements and applications.
Avoiding Delays with Early Material Selection and Analysis
As previously mentioned, selecting and analyzing the appropriate materials for a medical device project should be performed as early as possible. Otherwise, the manufacturer risks potential delays downstream such as biocompatibility issues that could impact the regulatory approval process.
Suppliers with in-house testing labs enable medical device engineers to save significant time on projects because the supplier can create tailored reports that address specific customer-requested datapoints to characterize and qualify medical-grade fiber. Third-party labs often have longer turnaround times and tend to produce more general reports that may require more time and resources to interpret.
Additionally, suppliers with in-house testing capabilities continuously build a database of de-identified data to guide fabric selection. This enables device designers to confidently make a decision based on predicate devices and quickly move forward on selecting a material solution (e.g., polyester, polyether ether ketone (PEEK), ultra-high molecular weight material).
Dedication to Textiles Is a Dedication to Timeline
As a textile supplier with a concentrated focus on textile design and development, Secant Group leverages decades of experience working with startups and global device manufacturers to guide raw material selection and design textile solutions that enhance next-generation implantable medical devices.
Medical device engineers who work with Secant Group have direct access to experienced textile engineers, the latest technology and equipment, agile operations processes, robust supply chain agreements, and award-winning quality systems that all work together to streamline device development and ensure a high-performance textile solution—just like how the components of a medical device work together to ensure patient quality of life.
Whether looking for key components for implantable cardiovascular, general surgery, neurovascular, or orthopedic devices, medical device manufacturers can partner with Secant Group to find a textile solution early in the design process to ensure their next-generation device launches on time.
Learn more about Secant Group’s biomedical textile design capabilities.
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