Bioabsorbable Polymers: Ensuring Safety and Improving Patient Outcomes
In the world of medicine, new devices offer huge potential for patients and healthcare. At the forefront of this wave are bioabsorbable or resorbable polymers – giant molecules that can be broken down by and assimilated back into the body gradually over time. This allows the body to heal without the need for a permanent device implant or surgery to remove a medical device once healing has properly occurred.
However, with that potential comes the need for strict testing and regulation. Without these precautions, there is no way to assure that the material will be safe for the patient or if it will perform as expected.
The benefits of bioabsorbable polymers
Bioabsorbable polymers play an important role in all kinds of surgeries, procedures and healthcare. For example, in maxillofacial surgery, these materials allow surgeons to provide scaffolding to aid the healing process that are broken down into small molecules once they are no longer needed.
Polylactic acid is one common resorbable polymer due to its strength and biocompatibility. Once it’s within the body, it converts to lactic acid – the same chemical that causes you to feel the burn during a workout.
Considerations for the testing process
There are many ways to characterize and test bioabsorbable polymers for their safety and effectiveness, including inherent and intrinsic viscosity, molecular weight distribution, moisture content, and several others. Polymer structure, molecular weight, and morphology are three attributes that affect not only the mechanical properties of the material, but also the rate of resorb.
Testing laboratories must be aware of potentially toxic polymeric degradation products – if these build up in the body or occur in concentrated doses, they could become fatal. However, properly-tested bioabsorbable polymers have huge potential for increased healing and more advanced operations. Going forward, these compounds could play an integral role in healthcare and quality of life.