Medical Uses for Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid for the Medical Industry

Glycolic acid high purity 70% grade is used for various medical applications. Polyglycolic acid (PGA) and poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) sutures were introduced in the 1970s as the first synthetic absorbable synthetic sutures and are still used today.

In addition to use as a bio-absorbable suture material, PGA and PLGA have been applied to:

  • Absorbable staples, screws, meshes, and stents
  • Anastomosis rings, pins, rods, plates, and screws
  • Tissue engineering, including non-woven meshes
  • Controlled drug delivery

How Glycolic Acid Works

PGA’s hydrolytic instability stems from the ester linkage in its backbone. It biodegrades in two steps to its monomer glycolic acid: water diffuses into the polymer matrix’s non-crystalline regions and separates the ester bonds. Then, once the amorphous regions erode—leaving the polymer’s crystalline portion open to hydrolytic attack—the polymer chain dissolves. Both hydrolysis and certain enzymes can degrade PGA.

Sutures manufactured with PGA lose half their strength after two weeks and 100% of their strength after four weeks. The body will absorb the polymer/monomer completely within four to six months.

Features and Benefits of Glycolic Acid Used in the Medical Field

For more than two decades, PLGA has also been used to create devices for drug delivery of small molecule drugs, proteins, and macromolecules in commercial and research uses. It's also used for various tissue engineering applications because:

  • It is biodegradable and biocompatible
  • It has tunable mechanical properties
  • It exhibits a wide range of erosion times
  • It is an FDA-approved polymer