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What Do We Know About Polypropylene?

Polypropylene (PP) mesh

September 28, 2012 ~ The following was sent from a consultancy group, Frost & Sullivan.  Chemical, Materials and Research Analyst, Tridisha Goswami, provided MDND information on the properties, however nothing on whether or not polypropylene is safe to use for a permanently implanted medical devices.

The analyst says more research must be done to determine that.

See the previous story (here) about the predicted optimistic future for polypropylene (PP) and its use in medical devices, according to Frost & Sullivan.

According to the research:

•        Polypropylene’s (PP’s) cost-to-performance ratio is one of the determining factors for its use over alternatives, such as polycarbonate and polystyrene.

•        Although other polymers can provide greater performance than PP in specific applications, the latter typically is preferred when it comes to cost effectiveness.

•        PP is used for various purposes in the medical industry, such as in devices, drug-delivery systems, nonwoven fabrics, and packaging. It is widely used in applications, including syringes, pouches, hospital disposables, test tubes, beakers, and pipettes.

•        Polypropylene is most often used as a nonabsorbable, synthetic suture material. PP has been used extensively in medical implants and in hernia repairs.

•        The PP application with the greatest Volume is disposable hypodermic syringes. Radiation-resistant high-performance polypropylene (HPP) and clear, radiation-resistant random copolymer (RCP) also are used often in medical devices.

•        But with the development of HPP, impact resistance increases while cost remains effective. HPP slowly has gained entry into the markets, and usage is expected to grow in the short term.

•        A recent application of PP is in casting cups used to make short-use contact lenses. PP is gaining prominence in this application because of its resistance to the harsh chemicals used to make the lenses.

•        In 2011, the PP in medical devices segment in the United States was $247.7 million and Volume was 351.7 million pounds. By 2018, Volume is expected to reach 490.0 million pounds.

•        Revenues are growing at a 6.0 percent CAGR.

•        One of the key medical applications for PP is syringes, which accounted for 24.3 percent of volume in 2011.

PP use, Frost & Sullivan

PP is one of the dominating polymers in the medical devices industry. Although, there are speculations about the side effects of PP, a lot more research is required to prove the harmful effects of polypropylene. The price to performance ratio is also very high for this polymer and hence the market for PP will grow strongly, at around 6.0 percent CAGR in the near future.

However, polypropylene may not be compatible for certain applications and OEM’s have to concentrate on R&D for suitable material selection for any application.

Hope this helps!



  1. Todd says:

    I just had a hernia surgery and it feels like I’m being poked from the inside out what can I do.

    • Jane Akre says:

      Hi Todd- first make sure you have all of your medical records and you know your manufacturer and type of mesh. that doesn’t mean you are planning to sue, but you should be prepared in case your healing is not successful and for any additional treatment. Is your doctor willing to discuss this with you? Will he or she keep you as a patient if there are complications or send you to pain management? My understanding is some people return to the gym or strenuous activity much too soon… after hernia surgery. That may never be recommended… something folks aren’t told, though I’m not a doctor. Bottom line- if you are a candidate, a non-mesh surgery will have much fewer complications.

  2. […] read about polypropylene, the petroleum–sourced material that makes up transvaginal and hernia […]

  3. mark says:

    in your article you mentioned “Although, there are speculations about the side effects of PP, a lot more research is required to prove the harmful effects of polypropylene”! do you have any info on studies or other resources regarding this?

    • Jane Akre says:

      Mark- We were collecting experiences from readers to go to a registry by UCLA researchers trying to connect the dots on autoimmune issues and PP mesh. That research is yet to be announced but we will report it when it is ready. Thank you.

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