Medical grade tubing is used around the world by healthcare professionals of every kind, for applications ranging from peristaltic pumps and IV bags to use in advanced medical devices. However, with all of the uses for medical tubing, the sheer variety of solutions available can make finding the right tubes for your application difficult. This doesn’t have to be the case!
Depending on the application, tubing may need to have a number of different features. These can vary from opacity (the most common) to specific requirements pertaining to flexibility, bend radius, and more.
To help make these factors less daunting, read on to learn more about materials, sizing, and the various performance specifications common for medical tubing.
Thinking Critically about Material
Whether you need a simple opaque tube, a radiopaque tube (For x-ray applications), or a medical tube that is biocompatible with specific substances – material selection plays a major roll. While specifications like opacity are relatively straightforward, considerations such as biocompatibility are incredibly important to prevent costly and potentially dangerous complications.
For example, if a medical tube is incompatible with the chemical or medication it conveys, the substances can actually adhere to the walls of your tubing. At the worst, incompatibility can even go so far as to chemically alter the drugs being used, which can ultimately harm the patient.
As the use and variety of medical devices continues to rise, biocompatibility will continue to be an important issue for device manufacturers. For that reason, it’s important to choose a tubing provider that stays abreast of the industry.
Depending on the application that calls for medical grade tubing, performance specifications can make a major difference in terms of the solution that you ultimately decide to use. The most common performance specifications include vacuum rating, bend radius, temperature range, and pressure rating. These performance characteristics are listed below.
Maximum Vacuum: Maximum vacuum defines the absolute maximum amount of vacuum pressure that can be withstood by the tube. This rating is typically given in inches or millimeters mercury, referenced below one standard atmosphere.
Bend Radius: The minimum bend radius rating is based on the amount of deformation the tubing cross-section can handle. This is usually measured in inches or millimeters. The smaller the minimum bend radius is, the more flexible the medical tubing is. This factor is important because too much flex can cause the tube to become deformed or kinked, which can dangerously slow or even stop the flow of liquids.
Temperature Range: Temperature range rating defines the range of ambient temperatures that a piece of medical tubing can operate within.
Pressure rating: This rating is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) and determines the minimum and maximum pressures that the medical grade tubing is designed to accommodate.
From large diameter medical device tubing to miniature tubes, medical grade tubing is available in a wide range of sizes. Sizing for tubes typically begins with the outside diameter (O.D.). Outer diameter determines the entire diameter of the tube’s outer cross section. The inner diameter is another important sizing characteristic that determines the size of the opening inside the tube. Finally, wall thickness refers to the actual width of the entire tube as a whole.
When inquiring about medical tubes, the right sizing is essential to ensure proper functionality for your applications. For this reason, it’s important to work with a medical tubing provider that has experience manufacturing tubes intended for a wide range of medical applications.
Hank Bastian writes about the industrial world and many of the important technologies that frequently go unnoticed. Most recently, he’s written about medical grade tubing and it’s important role in the healthcare industry.