Innovations in Biomedical Textiles

Frost & Sullivan estimates the U.S. market for biomedical textiles to be worth $360 million in 2018, and predicts that the market will exceed the half-billion-dollar mark by 2020. Brief profiles of the key polymer applications are provided to highlight the importance of these products and the emerging trends in these market segments.

Frost & Sullivan estimates the U.S. market for biomedical textiles to be worth $360 million in 2018, and predicts that the market will exceed the half-billion-dollar mark by 2020. The high growth should not be surprising: biomaterials and textiles, after all, form the basis of medical devices, consumables and supplies. Important insights to be gained are the reasons for the high growth, and the specific growth areas.

Polymers contribute more than 80% of the market revenue, while metals, ceramics, biologics and composites make up the remainder. Polymers are desired because of their versatility, their manufacturing flexibility and the diversity of applications to which they cater. Polymers can be braided, woven or knitted as the need arises. Because of the strength and stability that they provide, woven fibers are commonly used to manufacture cardiovascular grafts and heart valves. Knitted polymers are ideally suited for hernia meshes, urological slings and other soft support meshes. Braided fibers enable complex geometries during fabrication while maintaining a minimal surface area: sutures, catheters and sports medicine devices are often braided polymers.

Brief profiles of the key polymer applications are provided here to highlight the importance of these products and the emerging trends in these market segments.

Hernia Mesh

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 1 million hernia procedures are performed in the United States every year. As the incidence of obesity increases in the general population, and as the population ages, the need for hernia meshes is expected to increase. In this product segment, emerging trends and product ideas include anti-microbial coatings, drug-eluting meshes, and the use of biodegradable materials.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that the market for hernia meshes will be worth $100 million by 2020, making it one of the largest applications for biomedical textiles. C.R. Bard, Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., is the market leader in manufacturing flexible, self-expanding and resorbable meshes for a variety of hernia conditions (inguinal, ventral and hiatal). 

Vascular Stent Grafts

Biomedical textiles—particularly woven and knitted polyesters—are used in the manufacture of stent grafts to manage abdominal aortic aneurysms, where the aorta is weakened with the accumulation of cholesterol and mineral plaques. This causes enlargement of the aorta in the abdominal region, resulting in pain, low blood pressure and the risk of further health deterioration. Stent grafts are implanted in narrowed areas of the aorta to avoid rupture and bursting.

W.L. Gore & Associates (Newark, Del.), Cook Medical (Bloomington, Ind.) and Medtronic (Dublin, Ireland, and Minneapolis, Minn.) combined control nearly 70% of the vascular stent graft market.

Nonvascular Stents

Stents are commonly associated with coronary applications, and these products are usually metallic. However, the requirement for stent products is universal, and their design is based on usage and the site of implantation.

Disease conditions affecting the urinary tract, bile duct, esophagus and other nonvascular ducts require nonmetallic support devices that are more flexible. Nonvascular stents and stent grafts are polymeric devices that help maintain the patency of ducts and passages in the body. The National Institutes of Health estimates that between 10 and 15% of the U.S. population suffers from gallstones in the bile duct. Millions of Americans suffer from urological problems such as kidney stones, obstructions in the ureter and tumors. Boston Scientific, the leading medical device company, is the market leader in manufacturing nonvascular stents— predominantly with polymeric materials such as polyacrylamide, polylactic acid-glycolic acid, and polycaprolactone. These are biocompatible materials and they degrade over time, eliminating the need for another procedure to remove them.

Transcatheter Heart Valves

According to the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, more than 5 million Americans are affected by valve-related heart diseases. These include the failure or malfunction of one or more of the four heart valves. In such cases, a defective valve is replaced with an artificial one.

The material used for the valves is of great significance because it determines the life span and the performance of the valve. Biomaterials used in this application play a vital role and are engineered as tubular knits/woven/high-covering braided biomedical structures made of polyester fibers that can withstand stress and fatigue.

Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic are the leaders of the nearly $40 million market. These companies are constantly involved in technological advancements in the transcatheter aortic valve replacement segment. Growing demand for transcatheter heart valves from the geriatric population and continuous technological progress by the market leaders are expected to drive revenue and growth.

The Road Ahead

The market demand for novel biomaterials has been well established. Biomaterial companies are constantly on the lookout for new and high-functioning materials.

The future of biomedical textiles will be closely aligned with high performance, longer life and easier deployment of implants, considering the move toward minimally invasive procedures. The advent of nanotechnology has resulted in nanocoatings and nanofibers that will considerably add to the performance of biomaterials and implants.

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