Medical Compounds and Tubing for Fluid Management Devices

It is important to note that 50-60% of our total body weight is water and electrolytes, hence the management of body fluids is a vital function of many patient treatments and surgical procedures. Devices employed in this capacity can be broken down into 2 basic functions: Intravenous Giving Sets (for the supply of fluids into the body) and Drainage Devices (designed to effectively remove fluids).

Selection of the right materials and tubing is the critical to ensure the safe and effective functionality of such devices.

Intravenous “Giving” Sets


Infusion – the administration of fluids

Whenever a person experiences an illness/ situation that inhibits normal fluid intake or causes excessive fluid loss, fluid replacement will be required. Intravenous therapy provides the patient with life-sustaining fluids (e.g. sterile water, electrolytes and dextrose) and offers the advantage of immediate restorative effects.

A standard design, gravity fed, infusion set typically includes: a solution bag, tube set (composed of: spike & drip chamber, main tube & extension line, injection port etc.) and a scalp vein set (luer lock, tube, butterfly/needle/cannula assembly).

Typical materials used for the set components include:

  • Solution bag: transparent Flexible PVC with pH buffer
  • Spike: easy flow Rigid PVC
  • Drip chamber: transparent flexible PVC
  • Roller clamp: used to control flow rate
  • Main tube: kink resistant flexible PVC
  • Injection port: Injection moulded flexible PVC
  • Luer lock: crack resistant rigid PVC
  • Extension tube: High molecular weight flexible PVC
  • Butterfly connector: injection moulded flexible PVC
  • Cannula: Radiopaque PU

Parenteral Feeding – the administration of nutrition

If a patient’s gut cannot be used to absorb nutrients, then nutrition must be delivered into the blood stream, bypassing the gut. Parenteral nutrition is intravenous administration of appropriate protein, carbohydrate, lipids, electrolytes, vitamins and other trace minerals for patients who cannot eat or absorb enough food orally or through tube feeding to achieve their nutritional requirements.

A standard design, pump fed, parenteral infusion set typically includes: a nutrition (solution bag), tube set (made up from: spike & drip chamber/ burette, main tube, pump segment extension line, injection port etc.) – administered to the patient by either the Peripheral or Total Parenteral Nutritional methods.

Transfusion – the supply of blood and its components

A blood transfusion can replace blood you have lost, or just replace the liquid or cells found in blood, such as red blood cells, plasma or cells called platelets. Blood transfusions are often needed following injury, certain surgeries – or to treat particular medical conditions.

Most common types of blood transfusions include:

  • Whole blood transfusion: if a person has experienced a severe traumatic hemorrhage and require red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • Red blood cell transfusions: if they have experienced blood loss, if they have anemia (such as iron deficiency), or if they have a blood disorder.
  • Platelet transfusions: employed to help people who have lower platelet counts/ disorders, for example patients receiving chemotherapy.
  • Plasma transfusions: used to replace important proteins if people have experienced severe infections, trauma or organ failure.
Typical materials used for these components include:

  • Blood/ Blood component bag(s): frosted/ embossed unpigmented Flexible PVC
  • Spike: easy flow Rigid PVC
  • Drip chamber and filter: unpigmented flexible PVC (plus filter)
  • Main tube: kink resistant unpigmented flexible PVC
  • Sampling port: Injection moulded unpigmented flexible PVC connector
  • Luer lock: crack resistant rigid PVC

Drainage Devices


Chest Drain: Thoracic Catheter

Chest drains provide a method of removing fluid substances from the pleural space. The idea is to create a one-way mechanism that will let fluid out of the pleural space and prevent outside air/ fluid from entering into the pleural space.

Chest drains are commonly made from clear plastics like PVC or soft Silicone – depending on the intended intubation period.  Conventional chest drains feature multiple drainage holes in the section of the tube which resides inside the patient, as well as distance markers along the length of the tube, and a radiopaque stripe to allow the depth of the first drainage hole to be identified. Tubes designs are also provided in many configurations for different surgical needs, including: right angle, flared, tapered and with or without trocar.

Typical materials used for these tubes include:

  • Main tube: mid hardness Flexible PVC
  • Radiopaque strip: flexible PVC filled with high percentage of BaSO4

Percutaneous “Pigtail” Catheters

A pigtail catheter is a long, thin, tube with a locking tip that forms a ring shape. The drain is used to remove unwanted body fluids from an organ, duct or abscess and is inserted with precise radiological guidance to ensure correct positioning within the patient.

Tubes can be made in a number of configurations and from different polymer types depending on the desired functionality of the final device.

Typical material selections include:

  • Transient usage (< 24hrs): Flexible PVC
  • Short term (< 30 days): Polyurethane
  • Long term (> 30 days): Silicone

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