Nonwovens are the materials of choice for many wound care, surgical, and ostomy dressing applications because of recent formulation and manufacturing advancements and materials properties—absorbent, bacterial barrier, soft and stretchable, and liquid repellent. Essentially sheet or web structures of long fibers, bonded together mechanically, thermally, or chemically, medical nonwovens are expected to account for $19 billion in global sales by 2015, a 58% jump from the current $12 billion in sales.
Often made from polymers, medical nonwovens are used in the following categories:
• Personal healthcare/hygienic products, such as bedding, surgical gowns, masks, and wipes.
• Nonimplantable medical dressings, including wound care dressings, surgical drapes, and bandages.
• Implantables, including tissue structures, sutures, and orthopedic structures.
Protection, comfort, and cost
The key drivers for the continued growth of nonwovens in the medical market are protection, comfort, and cost. Medical nonwovens have replaced traditional fabrics, including linens, as the medical industry looks for better barrier and aseptic materials.
Most nonwovens used outside the body are disposable, single-use products that don’t require sterilization or cleaning for re-use. Disposable nonwovens are manufactured, sterilized, packaged, opened, used, and then disposed of with less risk of contamination before and after use than a reusable product.