IV bags, otherwise known as medical fluid bags, have been in widespread use in the medical and healthcare field for a wide variety of applications. Uses can vary from collection and transfer of blood, urine, various fluids, and diverse biological media. In all these different applications, an IV bag needs to be fully compliant to a number of strict regulations, including being tamper-free. They must also be recyclable and compliant with standards for safe disposal of plastic materials. The following is a closer look at how IV bags are manufactured.
Radio Frequency (RF) sealing
For many decades, RF sealing technology has been used in manufacturing IV bags designed for various applications in the medical sector. As the healthcare industry’s growth has kept pace with the global population’s growing health needs, there has been increased demand for medical bags produced using RF sealing.
The origin date of RF sealing technology is debatable, however, it is estimated that it traces its origins to the mid-1940s. At this time, some of the very first products manufactured using RF sealing began to surface in the consumer market, including plastic raincoats, 3-ring binders, assorted automotive products, swimming pool liners, etc. Later, this technology began to be applied in the medical field to produce medical bags that were superior to other alternatives on the market.
RF sealing employs radio-frequency waves to fuse together two or more layers of plastic materials, which are commonly PVC, polyurethane, Saran, or even EVA, to fashion containers or pressure devices. These products have numerous applications in the healthcare industry beyond blood and IV fluids, including in chemotherapy, urology, enteral feeding of patients, laparoscopy, ileostomy, ostomy, and fluid filtering. Despite the fact that these medical products are extremely varied in their applications, the sealing method remains the same. The RF sealing process works in much the same way food can be heated in a microwave oven. One of the similarities between RF sealing technology and microwave oven technology is that not all plastic materials can be heated in these processes.
The RF sealing process
RF sealing technology uses radio waves that are conveyed through the layers of dielectric plastic materials. When this process is combined with pressure on the plastic materials, the various molecules that make up the material become fused together. The radio waves penetrating the materials causes the polarized molecules of the polymers to vibrate and create friction at the molecular level, culminating in considerable heat production.
When sufficient energy is produced, the heat buildup transitions the plastic materials to a molten state and the layers fuse together. Once this has been accomplished, the RF energy source is deactivated and the tooling maintains pressure on the plastic sheets during cooling.
The end result are seals that possess the same or greater strength as the original plastic materials. These seals are acclaimed for their consistency, uniform appearance, and are almost clear to the naked eye. The tooling die has an exterior edge that creates a tear seal allowing the operator to strip away the excess material outside the seal. The end result is an RF sealed medical bag.
RF welding has major advantages over sewing and the use of adhesives to form a seal. RF welding creates an airtight seal and does not allow fluid out or debris into the container like a sewn seam. Using glue or adhesives to form the seam introduces new and sometimes hazardous chemicals into the medical product, and these seams can deteriorate or fail over time. RF welding creates an airtight seal, does not introduce any new materials, stays consistent over time, and is a cost-effective manufacturing process.
Medical bedside bags
Intravenous (IV) fluid bags are used primarily for delivering fluids to patients through their veins. These fluids delivered from IV bags include saline, drugs, blood, blood components, etc.
Medical waste bags
Medical waste bags are used in the disposal of a variety of medical waste products, including bodily fluids and other medical waste.
Medical specimen bags
This type of bag is designed to deliver a safe and practical way to transfer medical specimens within hospital environments. Specimen bags are made in diverse sizes and colors, and contain printed messages detailing the type of specimen being transported. These medical bags are sometimes used to safely contain biohazards.
Medical respiratory setup bags
Respiratory setup bags are used to ensure respiratory equipment such as valve masks or endothelial tubes remain dry and clean when being transported from a healthcare center to the patient’s residence or while in storage.