Advanced Ceramics / Ceramic Industry News

Morgan Technical Ceramics Developing Ceramic Throat Valve

Morgan Technical Ceramics recently announced it is working with University of Hull spinoff company Avoco Medical Ltd. on a speech-restoration project for patients with throat cancer. The company is developing a new patent-protected speech valve that uses zirconia components that enable valve life to increase, resulting in less frequent valve changes for patients. This improves patients’ quality of life and reduces cost to healthcare providers.

Up to 15% 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 that reconnect the trachea (wind pipe) and esophagus (food pipe). Current valve designs consist of a tube (stent) and incorporate a flap that opens as air is forced through. The valve is traditionally made from silicone rubber. However, since the material is exposed to a hostile and non-sterile environment, a biofilm develops on the surface, thus causing the valve’s performance to deteriorate so that it has to be replaced, typically every three months-a distressing and costly procedure.

Ceramic is a more attractive material because of its stability, biocompatibility and compliance. It has a hard, impervious surface that 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 their silicone counterparts.

“We started this project with Avoco Medical two years ago and are pleased that our Zyranox zirconia ceramic has proven to be highly resistant to biofilm during extensive laboratory testing,” said Yannick Galais, Morgan Technical Ceramics. “This longer lifetime of the valve generates less trauma for the patient as the device does not have to be changed so often, and it also delivers cost saving for all medical providers.”

“We approached Morgan Technical Ceramics for their ceramics expertise and manufacturing excellence,” said Michael Fagan, technical director for Avoco Medical. “The Kingston speech valve includes three ceramic components that must be precision-manufactured so they work together properly. The company has the ability to manufacture the parts to tight tolerances and complex geometries, which is essential to providing high-quality and reliable valves.”

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