Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Plastic Implant Marks Key Milestone in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Recovery

This week in the news we have seen coverage of plastics being used in a critical brain surgery application which is truly amazing modern medicine. Several months ago Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who has represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district since 2007, was shot. The injury Giffords sustained when she was shot led to brain swelling – an emergency that necessitated the removal of a portion of her skull to relieve pressure.

Physicians put a plastic implant – or bone flap as doctors call it – in place to fully cover her brain. The implant replaced the piece of her skull that was removed to relieve swelling after she was shot and will protect the brain and the skull. The flap itself is custom made, manufactured to slip perfectly into place based on a three-dimensional model of the skull built from a CT image. Typically, the implant is made of clear or white plastic, and tightened into place with titanium screws. According to Biomet, the manufacturer of Giffords’ implant, the material is porous to allow bone to fuse to the edges of the object in the future.

This surgery was a significant and necessary step in Representative Giffords’ recovery and is another example of the important role plastic plays in the world of medicine.

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, the plastics industry is responsible for many advancements in the world of medicine. State-of-the-art medical equipment utilizes plastic and helps people recover, rehabilitate, and regain their quality of life. Whether it is medical equipment such as stethoscopes made using polypropylene and polystyrene, or disposable medical applications (blood bags, tubing, catheters, examination gloves and inhalation masks as examples) made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane, or incubator domes made from acrylic or polycarbonate to defend premature infants against infection, plastics are there.

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