COVID-19 Pandemic Drives Demand for Disposable Wire and Cable Products

By Wayne Shockloss | April 28, 2020

Disposable, single-patient-use electrocardiograph cables and leadwires help keep patients safe by eliminating cross-contamination, which is always a critical concern in medicine but now more than ever.

Since reusable electrocardiograph (ECG) leadwires come into direct contact with a patient, they can be a source of harmful cross-contamination. Disposable ECG leadwires are a simple way to help reduce complex cross-contamination issues and enhance patient care.

disposable leadwires in medical equipment

For many years, electrode manufacturers have supplied hospitals with cables and leadwires as a complement to the sales of disposable ECG electrode sensors. That tradition continues even in today’s marketplace.

The use of disposable, single-patient-use cables and leadwires was pioneered by Covidien’s Kendall-LTP Division, which sells electrodes and is now part of Cardinal Health. Since then, many companies have begun offering disposable ECG leads, including 3M, Cables and Sensors, Cardinal Health, Curbell Medical, Philips Healthcare, Vyaire Medical, Uni-Med, and others. Given widespread concern stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and hospital acquired infections (HAIs), we can expect more companies to introduce disposable leads.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, sales of disposable ECG leads were expected to exceed $1 billion by 2024 with a 25% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Given the widespread impacts of the coronavirus, the market is now expected to double to $2 billion for single-patient-use ECG leads during the same period.

North American hospitals represent the largest market of disposable leadwire adopters, but European and Asia-Pacific countries are expected to increase adoption of these technologies as the world focuses on infection control and reducing the spread of cross-contamination. Carlisle Medical Technologies offers high-performance ECG/EKG cables and leadwires for the medical device and healthcare industries, including finished devices and subassemblies with pre-engineered products for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation (SpO2) equipment, which estimates the amount of oxygen in the blood, and electrocardiograph (ECG) equipment, which measures the electrical activity of heartbeats. The company’s disposable leadwires utilize fully automated assemblies with standard components for cable and interconnects.

Curbell Medical’s disposable, single-patient-use leadwire sets offer the quality of a reusable product at a disposable price. Leading patient-monitoring OEMs have largely made a shift to disposable ECG lead sets, adapters, and cables. This technological advancement is price-sensitive, but the cost of infectious disease can be far more costly and life-threatening.

Curbell disposable leadwire

A disposable, single-patient-use leadwire set from Curbell Medical

Leadwires made with thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) perform better than those made with PVC. TPEs perform better in infection control environments and offer enhanced flexibility, whereas polyurethane (PUR) and liquid silicone rubber (LSR) materials are used for reusable products because they are more durable and more expensive.

Cardinal disposable leadwire adapters

Cardinal Health offers disposable adapters that connect disposable leads to many different patient-monitoring systems (left), and its Disposable Radiolucent Lead Sets (right) do not appear on X-rays or MRI images.

Unimed disposable leadwires

UniMed Medical supplies ECG leadwires that are compatible with many different patient-monitoring devices, including disposable ECG monitoring leadwires (left) and disposable ECG radiolucent lead wires (right).

3M disposable leadwires

3M offers a wide variety of shielded and unshielded disposable ECG leads to compliment 3M electrodes, which are compatible with market-leading patient-monitoring systems.

In addition, Nikomed USA has introduced a new, non-metallic disposable and universal leadwire system called BioWire. The technology consists of conductive silver chloride ink printed onto polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate. This lead is disposable and recyclable with no need for extra preparation or processing; simply dispose or incinerate.

Hospitals looking for alternatives to costly cleaning and reprocessing of reusable leadwires will change to disposable, single-patient-use leads from patient-monitoring OEMs, electrode manufacturers, or distributors. This interconnect solution is very well designed and costs substantially less than reusables.

As connector and cable assembly suppliers, med-tech OEMs, and electrode manufacturers respond to this rapidly growing market, we can expect to see the development of more user-friendly, low-cost, disease-preventing technical solutions.

Wayne Shockloss is Bishop & Associates’ medical market sector director.

Like this article? Check out our other manufacturing, market update, and Connector Basics articles, our Medical and Wire & Cable Assembly Market Pages, and our 2020 and 2019 Article Archives.

Wayne Shockloss
Get the Latest News