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Ultra-Fine Metal Tubing Smoothes the Way for Miniaturized Medical Devices
Date:5/18/2010

opment of a radioactive “seed” used in the localized treatment of tumors in prostate cancer cases. Known as brachytherapy, the treatment requires the manufacture of very small titanium medical tubing that is similar to a pinhead in size and shape.

“Essentially, the fabrication of the seeds requires that a titanium medical tubing that is about four pin-heads thick be welded closed on one end,” Heft explains. “A radioactive isotope is placed into the enclosure, which is then closed at the open end. Depending on the treatment requirements, up to 100 tiny seeds are inserted into or near the prostate tumor. The radiation seeps through the miniature tubing, into the cancerous tissue next to the seeds.”

Heft says his firm provided the seed “hulls” for one of the first suppliers of radioactive seeds used for prostate cancer. He was involved with the design and assisted with multiple FDA trials and approvals, using multiple sizes of tubing until final design was accomplished. At that point, International Tube began fabricating 250,000 seed tubes at a time, which required the use of merely about 1,000 ft. of tight tolerance small diameter titanium tubing.

Heft's firm was also called on to improve the safety in small-diameter metal tubing used for insertion of the fiber optic cameras used in microsurgery. Due to the pliable nature of fiber optics, the device manufacturer got reports that the fibers were occasionally getting snagged in the tubes. Worse yet, this snagging sometimes resulted metal-to-metal contact, which produced distressing shocks to the surgical patients.

“The problem was that the tube ID surface was not smooth enough for this virtually micro-level application,” Heft explains. “So our engineers analyzed the requirements and designed an ultra-smooth interior tube surface. The design of the medical tubing saved the manufacturer almost 50 percent on expenditures
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