Biodegradable ureteral stents: in vitro assessment of the degradation rates of braided synthetic polymers and copolymers

Am J Clin Exp Urol. 2022 Feb 15;10(1):1-12. eCollection 2022.


Objectives: The control and predictability of degradation rates and the absence of obstructive phenomena are two main challenges for research regarding biodegradable ureteral stents. The objectives are to assess the degradation performance and safety of braided combinations of three synthetic biodegradable polymers and copolymers; and to evaluate the interference of a heparin dip coating on degradation and bacterial colonization.

Methods: The hydrolysis of polyglycolic acid (PGA), poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and Glycomer™ 631 is assessed in this in vitro study that comprises ten groups. Stent samples present a braided arrangement and are incubated in porcine urine that undergoes analysis and exchange every 48 h until degradation. Coating is carried out with sodium heparin via dip coating and determination of the heparin release is carried out by ELISA test. Variables of study are stent mass, mass fold change, degradation time, bacterial colonization and concentration of heparin released in artificial urine.

Results: There is statistical significance in degradation times between all materials except between the Glycomer™ 631 alone and combined with PGA. Mass fold change analysis of the Glycomer™ 631 evidences an increasing trend of its mass during degradation. The combination of Glycomer™ 631 and PGA presents a progressive and gradual degradation, where PGA degrades at week 3 while Glycomer™ 631 remains intact until its fragmentation at the late stage of degradation. Heparin coating has no significant impact on mean degradation times and trends in any group, nor on bacteriuria rates; heparin concentration decreases significantly after 72 h. Products of degradation are released steadily with minimum dimensions.

Conclusions: The combination of synthetic biodegradable polymers and copolymers with different degradation rates provides a gradual staged degradation. Heparin dip coating is a safe and feasible technique to coat biodegradable ureteral stents without interfering in degradation rates although it does not have a significant effect on the onset of bacterial colonization.

Keywords: Biodegradable ureteral stents; braided stent; degradation; dip coating; heparin; heparin coating; in vitro; synthetic polymers.