Medical Textiles: Features, Types and Applications

Introduction
When it comes to technical textiles, it comes to medical textiles. Already medical textiles are an emerging sector in the present world. The new field that has been created as a result of the combination of textile technology and medical science is known as Medical textiles or Med-tech. From the hygienic materials and hospital bed sheets, curtains to surgical masks, gowns, etc. used in operation theaters, even surgical threads, bandages and artificial bones, ligaments, artificial kidneys, livers, there are touches of technological and smart textiles everywhere. Medical textiles have been playing an important role in medicine for centuries.

Some Vital Features of Medical Textiles

  1. Textile materials must be non-toxic.
  2. Must be resistant to allergens and cancer.
  3. Medical textiles must have the ability to disinfect without any structural or chemical changes.
  4. Textile materials must be biologically compatible.
  5. Complete good dimensional stability.
  6. It has air permeability and waterproofing properties.
  7. Resistant to acid and alkali.
  8. Must be capable of anti-microbial activity, i.e., must be resistant to microorganisms.
  9. The quality of the fabric should be good.
  10. Re-wash and reusable.
  11. It should be free size.

Types of Fibers Used in Medical Textiles

 1) Commodity Fiber:

  1. Natural and Regenerated Fibers: Cotton, Silk, Wood Pulp, Viscose.
  2. Synthetic fibers: polyester polypropylene, polyethylene, polyamide, PTFA, carbon, glass, silica.

 2) Specialty Fiber:
Collagen, calcium alginate, chitin, chitosan.

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Types of Fabrics Used in This Sector:
Different types of fabrics are used in the medical and healthcare sectors,

  1. Woven fabric
  2. Non-woven fabric
  3. Knitted fabric
  4. Braided

However, most medical textiles are made with woven and non-woven fabric.

Classification of Medical Textiles

1. Implantable Materials: There is a special type of textile structure that is used for various purposes inside the human body. The use of implantable material can be observed in closure or replacement surgery. For example: Satures, Soft tissue implants, Orthopedic implants, cardiovascular implants, etc. are used in textiles.

Product Applications: Artificial Tendon, Artificial Ligament, Artificial Skin, Artificial Bone, Artificial Cornea, Vascular Grafts, Heart Valves etc.

2. Non-Implantable Materials: Non-implantable medical textiles are used for external application of the body i.e. it is used to help in the recovery of various wounds on the outer part of the body. These textile materials must be non-toxic and resistant to allergens and cancer-causing influencers.

Product Applications: Absorbent Pads, Wound Contact Layers, Bandages, Plasters, Gauze Pads, Lint, Wound Dressing etc.

3. Extra Corporal Devices: Such devices are widely used in modern medical science.  This modern textile material is used to replace various organs inside the body of infected people. These devices must have non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, bio-compatibility properties.

Product Applications: Artificial Kidney, Artificial Lung, Artificial Liver etc.

4. Health Care & Hygienic Products: An important area of ​​medical textile is healthcare and hygiene assurance. These textile materials are used to protect physicians and health workers and to equip wards when treating patients in the hospital and will have non-toxic, non-carcinogenic etc. properties.

Product applications: Surgical masks, PPE, caps, gowns, bed sheets, curtains, protective clothing, baby diapers, sanitary napkins, etc.

Fibers Used in Different Purposes in Medical & Health Care

Fiber Types Applications
Cotton Surgical clothing gowns, Beddings, Sheets, Pillow cover, Uniforms, Surgical hosiery, Lint etc.
Viscose Caps, Masks, Wipes, PPE, Plasters, Bandages, Wound care pad etc.
Hollow viscose Artificial Kidney. Artificial Liver.
Polyester Gowns, Surgical cover, drapes, Blankets, Cover stock, Surgical hosiery, Sutures, Artificial tendon etc.
Hollow polyester Artificial Kidney.
Polyamide Surgical hosiery, Bandages, Wound care pad etc.
Polypropylene (PP) Protective Clothing, Sutures Plasters etc.
Polyethylene (PE) Surgical Covers, Drapes, Artificial joints/bones etc.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Heart valves, Vascular grafts, Bio-degradable Sutures etc.
Carbon Artificial tendon, Artificial bones etc.
Glass Caps, Masks, Plasters etc.
Collagen Artificial skin, Ligament, Lumen, Sutures
Silicone Artificial joints/bones, Artificial lumen, Artificial skin etc.
Hollow silicone Artificial Lung
Steel Non-biodegradable sutures.
Elastomeric Surgical hosiery, Gloves etc.

Applications of Medical Textiles

Contact Lenses: Contact lenses are one of the most widely used textile technologies in modern times. Contact lenses changes the color of the eyes to make them more beautiful. It is made of textile materials with water absorption capacity.

Contact Lenses
Fig: Contact Lenses

Artificial Cornea: This technology is used to recover from blindness. The textile materials used in this case should be flexible and sufficient mechanical strength.

Artificial Cornea
Fig: Artificial Cornea

Artificial Kidney: Artificial kidney is used to remove wastes like urea from the blood. Artificial Kidney is a device which artificially purifies the blood on the base of dialysis. Generally, hollow membrane fibers like hollow viscose, triacetate, polyvinyl alcohol, polyester fiber are used in this system.

Artificial Kidney
Fig: Artificial Kidney

Artificial Lungs: Artificial lung removes carbon dioxide from the blood and helps in transporting clean oxygen. It is made using hollow fibers like hollow viscose whose pore size is less than one micro meter.

Artificial Lungs
Fig: Artificial Lungs

Artificial Ligaments: It is used to join the two ends of the bone. Artificial ligaments can be made using man-made fiber like polyester and collagen.

Artificial Ligaments
Fig: Artificial Ligaments

Artificial Bones: A group of scientists from Deakin University in Australia are claiming that artificial bones will be made from used Denim fabric which is used in human body. Denim is basically made from cotton and cotton (cellulose) is a versatile renewable material that can be used to regenerate aerogel by using various liquid solvents on used denim. Aerogel is low density advanced material, due to its low density, Aerogel is often referred to as solid smoke.

Artificial Bones
Fig: Artificial Bones

Artificial Liver: Artificial livers are recently developed. All types of biochemical reactions occur in this liver. So, in particular, it is a complex device because the body’s biological reactions take place here. This device is used to separate and dispose of patient’s plasma and supply fresh plasma.

Artificial Liver
Fig: Artificial Liver

Artificial Blood Vessel: Medium and large diameter artificial blood vessels are made with PET fabric or Polytetrafluoroethylene membrane. Biocompatible elastic polymers are used to prevent the blood leakage.

Artificial blood vessel
Fig: Artificial blood vessel

N95 Mask: The Covid-19 issue has introduced us to a special type of mask called N95. It is a special type of respiratory protection product. N95 has its own unique meaning, ‘N’ stands for “Non-Oil” meaning that if no oil-based particle is present anyone can use this mask in that environment. And ‘95’ means the mask has 95% efficiency. A drop of 3 microns or larger cannot penetrate the wall of the mask. This mask is made with multiple layers of non-woven fabric which is mostly made of polypropylene.

N95 masks
Fig: N95 masks

Surgical Mask: Surgical masks are made with non-woven fabric while maintaining filtration and air permeability properties. It is mostly made of polypropylene with a density of 20-25 GSM. Polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyester can also be used. It is made by combining multiple non-woven layers, which is effective in resisting bacteria/viruses above 1 micron.

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Surgical Masks
Fig: Surgical Masks

Surgical Gown: The main raw materials for making surgical gown are non-woven fabric. The complete gown is made by combining three separate layers of non-woven fabric. The outer layer is a Polypropylene non-woven of 30 GSM. The middle layer is 15 GSM Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fabrics and the inner layer is about 25 GSM Polyester non-woven. Polypropylene has a moisture recovery capacity of 0% so, it is suitable for outer layer. On the other hand, polyester has a moisture recovery ability of 0.4%, so it is suitable for inner layer, helps to absorb sweat when the gown used for a long time.

Surgical gown
Fig: Surgical gown

Sanitary Napkin: Sanitary napkins are produced by using three layers of textile materials. The inner layer which contacts with human body is made of nonwoven. The inner layer should have some special characteristics like quick transfer of menstrual blood from inner layer to center layer, comfortable, softness feels, pliability and sustainability against blood. The center layer of sanitary napkin composed of special polymer which has super absorbent properties. And the outer layer is composed of polyethylene.

sanitary napkin
Fig: Sanitary napkin

Diaper: Diapers are generally of two types, 1) Pants type & 2) Pad type. Diapers are primarily designed for babies & adults. Diapers like sanitary napkins also have three layers. Nonwovens are used to make diapers.

Diaper
Fig: Diaper

Bandages: Bandages are used to place the wound care layer in the correct position. Wound care prevents the body from becoming infected and absorbs blood from the wound site. Woven, non-woven and knitted fabrics are used to make bandages.

Bandages
Fig: Bandages

Human Textile: If there is any wound in the human body, it can be treated with human textile. The wound part is filled up with artificial yarn and the fall merges with the body. In this case artificial yarn is made from human cells.

Human Textiles
Fig: Human Textiles

Uses of Smart and Nanotechnology in Medical Textiles
Already, smart medical textiles have received a huge response in healthcare. Smart Fabric has a great job for monitoring patients. It can regulate the patient’s body temperature i.e., identify the need for ideal body temperature to help it adjust to the body and be able to rate and diagnose the heart rate. This can be especially beneficial for hospital patients, such as: feeling cold after surgery or helping to feel very hot during surgery.

On the other hand, the use of nanotechnology in medical textiles has also been noticed. The new innovation in the medical industry is nano coated materials. The materials used to make nan-based products have some special features like high surface area to volume ratio, film thinness, light weight etc. Some uses of nanofibers can act as carriers of various drugs such as: wound dressings, bone regeneration and at specific sites.

Major Medical Textiles Manufacturers and Suppliers in Bangladesh

  1. Nasir & Sons Bangladesh.
  2. Abian International.
  3. E-Bike Transport Corporation.
  4. Sagar Traders.

In addition, Tex-Wave Group, Beximco Group and Classic Group are currently producing PPE, Surgical masks, Fashionable masks and 9-level protection masks, which are being exported to France and the United States. At present, at least 45 garment factories in the country are making various materials including international quality personal protective equipment (PPE), Masks, Hats, Aprons, Hospital bedsheets and Face covers.

Global Market for Medical Textiles
The global medical textile market was valued at $16.69 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $23.3 million at a CAGR of 4.9% by 2025. Meanwhile, according to Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company based in India and the United States, the global personal security market last year was worth 5 thousand 900 core dollar. In 2027, it will increase to 8 thousand 400 core dollars.

Export Figure of Bangladesh’s Medical Textiles in Corona Epidemic
Corona has changed the image of the export of health care products. Mask exports from March to July amounted to $2.68 core, up from only $26lakh in the same period last year. On the other hand, PPE, Apron and Surgical gowns exports have been $35 core 15 lakh. Of that, PPE exports in July and August alone were USD 13 crore. In the last few months, materials worth USD 50 core 10 lakh have been shipped to the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union.

Conclusion
The importance of medical textiles in human life, healthy living and improvement is immense. The development of new technologies and new items will help patients to overcome the hardships that they used to suffer in the past. But the sad thing is that even though there is research on Medi-Technology in developed countries, there is not much research in Bangladesh. There are many more unknown areas of medical textiles, we should do research on those issues. We should pay more attention to the production of healthy and quality medical textile materials. In addition to technology, we need to keep an eye on the price of our products. Through this it will be possible to produce quality complete and readily available modern medical textiles.

References:

  1. Roshan Paul, “High Performance Technical Textiles”, First edition published 2019.
  2. Richard Horrocks and Subhash C. Anand, “Handbook of Technical Textiles”, Volume 2: Technical Textile Applications, Second edition.
  3. Matsuo, “Advanced Technical Textile Products”, 2008, Vol 40, No 3, Chapter 4.
  4. Chet Ram Meena, Nitin Ajmera and Pranayakumar Sabat, “Medical Textiles”, https://www.technicaltextile.net/, Accessed date: 07/02/21
  5. Anita A. Desai, “Medical Textiles: Health care and Hygiene Products”, https://www.fibre2fashion.com/, Accessed date: 07/02/21
  6. Rafiul Islam, “Medical Textile: A Potential Segment to Grow”, https://www.textiletoday.com.bd/, Accessed date: 08/02/21
  7. Md. Imran Hossain, “Medical Textile with Its Enormous Applications”, https://onlinetextilestudy.com/, Accessed date: 08/02/21

Author of this Article:
Md. Imran Hossain
B.Sc. in Textile Engineering
Shahid Abdur Rab Serniabat Textile Engineering College, Barisal.
Email: mdimranhossain.te@gmail.com

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