Preventing HCAIs with Innovative Material Solutions

Thu, 01/30/2014 - 3:58pm
Cathleen Hess, Director of Healthcare Marketing, SABIC Innovative Plastics


Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are a dangerous and costly challenge impacting the healthcare sector on a wide scale. Based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), hospital infections represent the most frequent adverse event during health care delivery and no institution or country can claim to have fully solved the issue. The WHO estimates that at any given time, 7 out of every 100 hospitalized patients in developed countries and 10 out of 100 in developing countries will acquire at least one HCAI. This equates to hundreds of millions of patients affected by HCAIs each year around the world.

Infections transmitted indirectly through devices such as thermometers, stethoscopes, other inadequately decontaminated equipment or medical devices are the most common mode of transmission in healthcare settings. In response, healthcare organizations around the world are looking to develop and adopt new medical device technology to help combat HCAIs.

As part of this global effort, SABIC has worked with its customers in the healthcare industry to develop robust solutions for medical devices that are aimed at decreasing the spread of infection, including two recent developments: materials with antimicrobial properties to reduce the potential spread of pathogens, as well as materials with enhanced sterilization performance.

According to the WHO, there are 4 types of infections that account for 80% of all HCAIs and they are often the result of improper sterilization and disinfection of medical devices. These include: surgical site infection (SSI), urinary tract infections associated with catheters, bloodstream infections associated with intravascular devices, and pneumonia associated with ventilators. SABIC developed its LNP antimicrobial thermoplastic compounds, created with silver-based antimicrobial additives, which have the potential to be applied in surgical instruments, monitoring and imaging devices, fluid and drug delivery products, structural applications such as hospital beds and operating tables, and other applications where there is a desire to reduce the potential transference of pathogens. These antimicrobial materials are formulated to be effective at the lowest concentration of silver, and the appropriate formulation can be specified depending on whether the end product is a high- or low-touch application. When following ISO testing protocols under laboratory conditions (specifically the ISO test for MRSA), five of the “high effect” antimicrobial LNP grades (used for high-touch applications) have a log reduction value greater than 4, representing a 99.99% reduction of pathogens. Four of the “low effect” antimicrobial LNP grades (used for low-touch applications) have a log reduction value of less than 4, representing a 99.0-99.99% reduction of pathogens.

Additionally, the heightened emphasis on infection control in healthcare environments means that medical devices are regularly subjected to increasingly harsh cleaning chemicals and sterilization cycles, which can put them at risk for substantial wear and tear known as environmental stress cracking (ESC). Resin material technologies — such as SABIC’s ULTEM HU1004 resin — are evolving to answer this need for enhanced protection, which can prolong the life of expensive medical equipment by enabling it to better withstand intensive sterilization processes. ULTEM HU1004 resin, a thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) resin, can be applied in medical and dental equipment or devices (e.g. dental and surgical sterilization trays) that undergo intense sterilization processes, including high temperature steam autoclave (up to 134°C), gamma radiation and hydrogen peroxide gas sterilization (an emerging process that is suitable at low temperatures). In tests involving the hydrogen peroxide plasma sterilization process, in particular, ULTEM HU1004 resin outperformed another common material used for these sterilization applications — polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) — in both tensile strength and ductility, which is critical to extending the useful life of devices. To address the industry need to use harsher chemicals to disinfect equipment, SABIC offers a broad and relevant portfolio of engineered thermoplastics, including VALOX, XENOY and ULTEM resins, which have been developed to help medical device manufacturers meet a wide range of challenging chemical resistance requirements.

As the healthcare industry continues to face the challenge of HCAIs around the world, the development of improved materials that decrease the transmission of pathogens and materials that can be applied in medical devices needing harsh sterilization processes are of critical importance. SABIC is committed to collaborating with leading medical device companies to develop healthcare solutions to help fight the spread of HCAIs, in the hopes of making hospitals a safer environment for patients and providers alike.


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