Leading manufacturer of ceramic components Morgan Technical Ceramics exhibited its pioneering ceramic speech valve for the first time in China, at Medtec China in Shanghai, 7th - 8th September.
The ceramics specialist worked with University of Hull (UK) spin out company, Avoco Medical Ltd, on a speech-restoration project for patients with throat cancer. The new patent-protected speech valve uses zirconia ceramic components which enable valve life to increase, resulting in less frequent valve changes for patients. This improves quality of life for patients and reduces cost to healthcare providers.
Zirconia speech valve from Morgan Technical Ceramics.
Up to 15 per cent of patients diagnosed with throat cancer every year require a laryngectomy (removal of the larynx) which results in speech loss. Some speech and vocal function can be restored through the use of valves which reconnect the trachea (wind pipe) and oesophagus (food pipe). Current valve designs consist of a tube (stent) and incorporate a flap which opens as air is forced through.
Traditionally the valve is made from silicone rubber, but as the material is exposed to a hostile and non-sterile environment a biofilm develops on the surface. As a result, the performance of the valve deteriorates so that it has to be replaced, typically every three months, which is a distressing procedure for the patient and costly to the health service.
Ceramic is a more attractive material because of its stability, biocompatibility and compliance. It has a hard, impervious surface which makes it more resistant to the hostile environment. Laboratory tests have shown that ceramic valves should last more than two years - at least eight times longer than silicone ones.
Morgan Technical Ceramics offers bespoke components in Zyranox, which is biocompatible and complies with ISO13356 certification for 'implants for surgery using nonmetallic materials'. Custom designed implantable components are also available in VitoxTM alumina and VitoxTM AMC (Alumina Matrix Composite) materials, both complying with the ISO 6474 standards. Applications include reconstructive joints, neurostimulation housings for cochlear implants, Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) and Implantable Pulse Generators (IPG).
The company has the ability to manufacture parts to tight tolerances and complex geometries, which is essential to providing high quality and reliable components. Ceramic is favoured by medical device manufacturers and medical professionals for their exceptional physical characteristics. The company's medical engineering expertise includes ceramic orthopaedic joint replacements and highly specialised ceramic-to-metal assemblies for implantable devices such as pacemakers, cochlear implants, and defibrillators.