The medical profession relies on various types of equipment to help with patient care. Some pieces of equipment require lubricants or coatings when being used. Coatings allow medical devices to move freely and eliminate any friction that might make a procedure uncomfortable for a patient. Since patient safety and preventing infection are top priorities during medical procedures, it’s important to understand the differences between the various device coating options.
Each piece of medical equipment has specifications that govern what may be used on it, but all medical coatings should be allergy-free and resistant to bacteria. Some of the most widely used types are lubricants, hydrophilic surface coatings, antimicrobial coatings, and Parylene conformal coatings.
Lubricants are mainly used on equipment that needs to glide freely, such as catheters. Lubricants should be compatible with blood, and they should not expand when they come in contact with water or other fluids. They must meet FDA guidelines for patient safety.
Hydrophilic surface coatings are also called hydro-gels. Hydro-gels swell up during contact with water. This allows them to remain “wetter” than other materials. They are an excellent choice for reducing friction and are often used on catheter guide wires, shunts, tubes, needles, and more.
Antimicrobial coatings are used to sterilize equipment that comes in contact with body fluids. This prevents external bacteria from entering a patient’s body during a medical procedure. Like lubricants, antimicrobial coatings must meet FDA standards.
Parylene is a vacuum-deposited polymer that goes on as a thin film when applied at room temperature. It offers the highest level of protection for life-saving equipment. It is impervious to pin-hole leaks and completely covers complex surfaces. Parylene is clear and restricts the growth of bacteria and other pathogens. Its ability to completely cover intricate shapes makes Parylene a popular choice for most medical devices.
Medical coatings provide patient safety and can extend the lifespan of the equipment they are used on. Sterilizing medical devices before and after use can greatly reduce the possibility of infection. Without these protective coatings, patient infections are more likely to occur.