There is a single, unyielding imperative in the development of catheters: the thinner the walls and the larger the inner diameter (ID), the more effective the instrument. "The medical device market is constantly pushing to have thinner catheters that can deliver new, advanced therapies to the body within the vasculature," says Matt Allen, senior global market manager for endovascular products at Zeus. "And with that, they need to have the components that allow them to go thinner but not lose strength or flexibility."
Crafting liners that allow catheters to push these boundaries is Zeus's speciality. Established in 1966 and headquartered in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the company's core business lies in the development of precision extrusion of advanced polymeric materials. "We employ more than 1,250 people worldwide," explains Allen. "We have four manufacturing facilities in South Carolina, one in New Jersey, and another in Letterkenny, Ireland."
Zeus provides products and services for a wide range of sectors, including the automotive industry, energy and fibre-optics, in addition to the medical market. Cross-pollination of ideas between different departments is not infrequent. "We offer a polymeric alternative to metal for use in MRI-guided catheter procedures. We've identified potential benefits using the same polymer across multiple markets," Allen says. "We make similar tubing for a wide variety of equipment to different specifications based on industry needs. So you're constantly learning, capability-wise."
That spirit of invention has defined the development of the Streamliner series of extruded tubing. Part of Zeus's range of 'sub-lite-wall' liners that have a maximum wall of 0.005in, this new product series is an extruded PTFE liner with a maximum wall of 0.00075in and an ID range of 0.004-0.40in. Streamliner XT, the first in the range, was released in July of this year. Streamliner VT builds on its predecessor by reducing the maximum wall to 0.001in and an ID range of 0.004-0.120in for market needs like coronary stent delivery.
"Thinning out the wall in this way allows the device manufacturers to produce the variety of catheters that clinicians are demanding," explains Allen. "By doing so, we help to provide more options for the device companies to develop life-saving technologies for operations that reduce procedure time, as well as risk to the patient."
The true significance of the Streamliner VT will lie in the way medical device manufacturers take advantage of its reduced maximum wall and larger ID, to marry it with new and more capable catheter models. "While we've thinned out our wall to give them more room, we've also kept the integrity of the PTFE liner that Zeus is known for: a consistent high-strength, very lubricious and tighttoleranced liner," explains Allen. "And we didn't sacrifice mechanical properties to achiever a thinner wall. It's the same product customers know and love, but we've given them the options to customise their catheter design based on performance needs."
Now, medical device manufacturers have new opportunities to perfect instruments that simplify the treatment of clots and arterial swellings. "The beauty of a flow diverter meshlike stent is that it allows a catheter to deliver one stent, one time to treat an aneurysm, instead of using several catheters to fill an aneurysm with different coils," explains Allen. "Zeus' development of thinner walls allows for that type of newer technology to be delivered with lower deployment force based on the increased lumen size of the catheter. In addition, a thinner liner also allows physicians to navigate further into the vasculature with improved flexibility, and provide the patient more treatment options."
According to Allen, Zeus is providing liners of the kind of quality that the medical device market has been demanding for years. "Our company's 50-plus years of experience, combined with our knowledge of the materials, processes, tooling, quality and a global customer base, has us uniquely to continue to listen, learn and provide solutions for the various needs of the medical market."