Uses Of Natural, Silicone, And Isoprene Rubber In Medical Devices And Technology

types of rubber for medical use

Uses of natural rubber

Distinct advantages

Durability. It is strong enough to withstand pressure. It is resistant to tear and damage.

Flexibility and elasticity. It easily conforms to different shapes and surfaces. Its thickness allows greater flexibility and free movement.

Spontaneous resealing of punctures. It has a unique property of resealing the holes created by accidental punctures, remaining as a protective seal.

Chemical resistance. It is resistant to several inorganic chemicals. Hence, tubes and rods made from natural rubber are not damaged and eroded by inorganic chemicals.

Protective barrier. It serves as an effective barrier for microorganisms, fluid penetration, and entry of biological hazards.

Specific uses

Straps for neck and legDue to its flexibility and elasticity, neck and leg straps use natural rubber. The leg strap anchors and attaches fluid bags to the patient’s body. On the other hand, the neck strap prevents block biting in shock patients.

Catheter. Due to its flexibility, urinary catheter uses natural rubber. It can penetrate the urethra, blocked by an enlarged prostate, thus allowing the flow of urine. Due to its flexibility, most patients prefer it because of the comfort that it provides.

Urinary catheter uses natural rubber. It can penetrate the urethra, blocked by an enlarged prostate.
Catheters are for relieving obstructions.

Oxygen masksThese devices require tight sealing when used. With rubber as one of their components, air leakage is prevented.

Gloves. Due to its property of being an effective barrier for pathogenic microorganisms and fluid penetration, glove production uses natural rubber. The gloves are easy to wear and very comfortable. In addition, it provides a good grip. They are strong yet flexible.

The gasket of syringes. Their properties to prevent the entry of microorganisms and fluid penetration make them ideal and the most appropriate material for gaskets of injecting devices. 

Syringe Rubber Gasket
Syringe gasket

Tubes and cords. It is a convenient way of transferring fluids, like urine and blood or mixing. Natural rubber provides good resistance to body fluids.

Tubes are used for extensions of urinary bags and  suction machines and for transferring fluid
Tubes are used for extensions of urinary bags and suction machines and for transferring fluid.

Site of injection of IV sets. The property of natural rubber to reseal its punctures makes it a good material for an injection site in IV sets.

Iv set injection site
IV set injection site

Uses of silicone rubber

Distinct advantages

Compatibility with different sterilization methods Heat, steam, ethylene oxide, gamma radiation, and electron beams are some methods of killing microorganisms. Silicone rubber can withstand any of these methods. Hence, products made of silicon rubber can also withstand any of these, and users will have many options to consider.

Avoidance of latex allergyIn the absence of latex in silicon rubber, a significant reduction in the incidence of allergy takes place. Thus, in patients with latex allergies, silicon serves as a suitable replacement for natural rubber.

Lesser toxicitySilicone rubber has fewer toxicities and sensitizations.

Heat resistanceThe property of silicone rubber to withstand high temperatures makes it an ideal material for medical end-products. Since heat and steam autoclaving are some of the sterilization methods used for medical devices, they can sterilize products whose main component is silicone.

Good sealing and encasing properties. Silicone rubber possesses an excellent sealing capacity to prevent fluid leaks.

Specific uses

Needleless connectors. Silicone rubber has good sealing and encasing properties. Thus, it is used in needleless connectors to prevent fluid leaks.

needless connector
Needleless connectors

Drug-eluting devices. These deliver some substances, such as hormones or drugs, while inside the patient’s body. Female contraceptive devices and pacemakers are good examples. Silicon rubber has two outstanding properties: (1) excellent biocompatibility and (2) reduced tendency to cause harmful or toxic effects on patients. These make them the most appropriate material for these devices.

Baby care devices. Devices belonging to this group need frequent sterilizations. Thus, these devices use silicone rubber as a predominant component to resist high heat, tolerating high-temperature sterilizations.

Tubes and cords. These use silicone rubber to avoid latex allergy experienced by some patients.

Uses of isoprene rubber

Distinct advantages

Low water swell. It does not absorb too much water.

High gum tensile strength. It does not break easily.

Good resilience. It adapts so well to varying loads.

Good tack and high hot tensile. It holds on so well to another structure. It is not slippery. Its physical properties remain intact and functioning even in relatively low temperatures. It has better low-temperature properties compared to natural rubber.

Very similar to natural rubber in structure and properties.  The production of polyisoprene aims to mimic the nature of natural rubber. Generally, they are identical. However, synthetic polyisoprene is more consistent than the types made out of sap from trees. That is, there is minimal variance in the properties of polyisoprene from lot to lot. In addition, the cure rate, processing, and purity are better than the synthetic ones.

No latex allergy. Polyisoprene does not contain latex. Hence, latex allergy is far from taking place among persons who will use it.

Specific uses

Surgical glovesAside from providing good flexibility, latex allergy is prevented.

Condoms. Being used inside the body, the occurrence of latex allergy is prevented.

Medical or food packaging adhesivesIts property of being tack makes it a good material for adhesives.

Site or port of injection of IV sets.  In contrast to natural rubber, isoprene rubber prevents the occurrence of latex allergy. In addition, it is resistant to most alcohols, acids, bases, and polar solvents. Thus, the competence of the port remains generally good regardless of the nature of the substance injected into it. It serves as a suitable replacement for natural rubber.

Infusion set with latex free rubber injection site
Infusion set with latex-free rubber injection site

The gasket of syringes. Isoprene rubber prevents fluid penetration and entry of microorganisms. In addition, it does not cause latex allergy.

A simple guide on the use of the three types of rubber

Natural rubber is the best choice if flexibility, strength, or resealing of punctures is needed. However, suppose there is a problem with latex allergy. The most appropriate replacement is isoprene rubber, especially if the additional expense is not an issue. Natural rubber prevents the entry of microorganisms and fluid penetration. For these purposes, natural rubber could still be a good choice. But if there is a problem with latex allergy, then silicone rubber is the best replacement.

With the increasing incidence of latex allergy, scientists started producing synthetic polyisoprene rubber as a possible substitute for natural rubber. Thus, the structure and properties of both natural and synthetic polyisoprene rubber are almost similar. The absence of latex in the latter is one of the main differences. Hence, in most situations, if natural rubber does not meet the requirements, then synthetic polyisoprene rubber serves as the better replacement.

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