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Health care: Five uses for medical silicone that you did not know

Healthcare 23.11.2022

Elkem’s silicone products have a number of important applications in the health sector and the pandemic, as lifesaving and life-enhancing technologies which contributes to our customers delivering their potential.

Silicones are extensively used across a number of industries due to its excellent chemical properties and are among the world’s most important and adaptable raw materials.

It is therefore not surprising that the industry is comprehensive, both in terms of employment, production capacity and not least area of use.

Only in Europe, the sectors related to silicone products employs approximately 1,7 million people, according to Silicones Europe. Looking exclusively at the healthcare sector, the global market purchases approximately 39,000 tons of silicone products annually, according to the Global Silicones Council.

What are silicones?
Silicones are inert synthetic compounds that come in a variety of forms (including oil, rubber and resin). Typically, heat-resistant and rubber-like, they are present in sealants, adhesives, lubricants, medical applications, personal care products, cookware and insulation. Silicones are polymers that contain silicon, combined with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and, in some cases, other elements.

Well tolerated

Silicone is used in a broad range of medical devices, including medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. The main reason? Silicone materials are well tolerated by the human skin and body and therefore help facilitate healing, improve the appearance of existing scars, reduce discomfort and patient risk.

In addition, there is a sustainability aspect connected to silicones. By using products made with silicones, you generate on average nine times less greenhouse gases than were emitted during manufacturing and disposal of that product.

Here are five uses of silicones in healthcare that you possibly did not know:

General and advanced surgery

There are strict regulatory and hygienic requirements for equipment used in the operating rooms, making biocompatible silicone a good alternative. Silicone can be found in medical valves to secure fluid management, like tubing, catheters and valves. 

Orthotics and prosthetics

Medical grade silicones also allow for comfortable, lightweight and durable manufacturing of orthotics and prosthetics.

In the case of prosthetic liners, for example, silicones are used to create soft and flexible materials that can be shaped over the patient's residual limb for protection against contact with a prosthetic device. Silicone liners reduce swelling, avoid skin abrasions and lessen the pain that amputees often experience. Compared to other carbon-based materials, silicones are known to be more durable and provoke less skin irritation. 

Diagnostics and monitoring

Innovative wearable solutions like watches, implantable sensors, smart textiles and many other devices enable healthcare professionals to have on-demand access to health data like oxygen, stress, blood glucose, or fitness level. Since these devices can be worn directly on the skin for extended periods of time, the material used must provide comfort and offer hypoallergenic qualities – making silicone an excellent alternative.

Pharmaceutical and drug delivery

Medical grade silicone is chosen in pharmaceutical manufacturing and drug delivery applications due to their biocompatibility, chemical inertness, thermal stability, flexible physical properties and environmental stability. Silicones are popular in a wide range of applications, including transfer tubing, gaskets and seals.

Wound management

Manufacturers of wound care products use silicones as a soft skin adhesive (SSA) in the production of skin-friendly, low-trauma bandages, dressings and surgical tapes. The goal is not only to alleviate pain when removing the dressing, but also to avoid exacerbating existing wounds and ulcers or creating skin damage. 

To join us in the hospital and to a greater extent understand how silicones are used to save lives, feel free to take a look at this video.

How Silicones help patients with COVID-19