Assessment of the environmental impacts of medical devices: a review

Ana Catarina Sousa, Anabela Veiga, Ana Collete Maurício, Maria Ascensão Lopes, José Domingos Santos, Belmira Neto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Medical devices (MDs) are important health instruments, encompassing an enormous diversity of products, from simple ligatures to pacemakers, bone grafts or auxiliary life support machines. Despite the growing social and economic relevance of the MD industry in the health sector, its environmental problems have only recently started to be discussed. MDs companies worldwide are being pressed to assess the environmental impacts of their products by considering the full life cycle. These pressures are leading to the use of tools which promote fact-based environmental decision-making toward a more sustainable health sector. Life cycle assessment (LCA) and eco-design are well-known methods which may provide the MDs industrial sector with knowledge of the environmental impacts associated with their products and subsequently promote informed decisions leading to more sustainable materials, devices and services. This paper selects and reviews relevant studies using the methodology of LCA or eco-design, either applied in a singular basis or simulated, to access impacts of MDs. Seeking for a comparative analysis, this review is extended to LCA studies for the most used material in the MDs industry: the polymers. Results show that the number of studies is not vast, realizing the yet scarce use of either LCA and eco-design in the scientific literature for MDs. Nevertheless, it is observed that when applied either LCA and eco-deign can promote grounds for an increase in the environmental sustainability of MDs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9641-9666
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Eco-design
  • Environmental impact
  • Healthcare industry
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Medical devices
  • Sustainability


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