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J Biomater Appl. 1999 Jul;14(1):67-90.

Biomedical applications of polyurethanes: a review of past promises, present realities, and a vibrant future.

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  • 1R&I Consulting International, Eden Prairie, MN 55346, USA.


Polyurethanes, having extensive structure/property diversity, are one of the most bio- and blood-compatible materials known today. These materials played a major role in the development of many medical devices ranging from catheters to total artificial heart. Properties such as durability, elasticity, elastomer-like character, fatigue resistance, compliance, and acceptance or tolerance in the body during the healing, became often associated with polyurethanes. Furthermore, propensity for bulk and surface modification via hydrophilic/hydrophobic balance or by attachments of biologically active species such as anticoagulants or biorecognizable groups are possible via chemical groups typical for polyurethane structure. These modifications are designed to mediate and enhance the acceptance and healing of the device or implant. Many innovative processing technologies are used to fabricate functional devices, feeling and often behaving like natural tissue. The hydrolytically unstable polyester polyurethanes were replaced by more resistant but oxidation-sensitive polyether polyols based polyurethanes and their clones containing silicone and other modifying polymeric intermediates. Chronic in vivo instability, however, observed on prolonged implantation, became a major roadblock for many applications. Presently, utilization of more oxidation resistant polycarbonate polyols as soft segments, in combination with antioxidants such as Vitamin E, offer materials which can endure in the body for several years. The applications cover cardiovascular devices, artificial organs, tissue replacement and augmentation, performance enhancing coatings and many others. In situ polymerized, cross-linked systems could extend this biodurability even further. The future will expand this field by revisiting chemically-controlled biodegradation, in combination with a mini-version of RIM technology and minimally invasive surgical procedures, to form, in vivo, a scaffold, by delivery of reacting materials to the specific site in the body and polymerizing the mass in situ. This scaffold will provide anchor for tissue regeneration via cell attachment, proliferation, control of inflammation, and healing.

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