You have been taken ill and have to go into hospital. Your life is on the line and you put your trust not only in the skilled healthcare professionals and high-tech medical equipmentâ€¦..but in a wire too?
Yes precision wires are found in many medical devices, where they play an integral part in the functionality of the device. They really can save your life. Ablation catheters are used to remove or terminate a faulty electrical pathway from sections of the heart which are prone to developing cardiac arrhythmia. Left untreated, this can lead to sudden and unexpected cardiac arrest. Is it really a precision wire that is responsible for preventing the horror of a heart attack? Well lets look a bit deeper into the makeup of the ablation catheter to find out.
Typically they consist of multiple layers of polyamide tubing which can be blended, braided, or layered with multiple polymers to get the performance characteristics desired which is usually low friction and high torque. The catheter tubing is then braided with precision metal wires to provide further strength, stiffness, torque and kink resistance. If we look closely into the metal wires that provide the catheter with their essential properties the metal wires are themselves highly engineered in their own right. Typically they are 304v, a vacuum melted grade of stainless steel suitable for use in the human body. They are drawn to very fine sizes, thinner than a human hair, and often rolled flat which again affect the properties of the catheter.
The wires are engineered with different tensile strengths which again produce the final catheter with different properties. Catheter manufacturers are constantly looking at new wires that they can use for braiding, including new alloys such as tungsten (high tensile strength) and Nitinol (memory alloy), as well as new braid configurations. These properties attribute to the final functionality of the catheter. It is reassuring to know that every element of the catheter is designed and engineered with both the surgeon and patient at the forefront of their mind.
So if you are ever in the unfortunate position as to be taken ill, you can have confidence that not only are the surgeons and healthcare professionals very well trained to treat your ailment, but the devices have been meticulously designed at each step, from raw material through to assemblyâ€¦.. and yes it is a â€œsimpleâ€ highly precise and engineered wire that is the unsung hero.