We assess the effects of stretch rate on the mechanical properties of Prolene® (Ethicon, Gynecare, Somerville, NJ, USA), a knitted polypropylene mesh. Prolene®, consisting of macroporous knitted polypropylene, is considered here as a suitable proxy to midurethral tape (MUT) as well as to many other prosthesis products used in surgery applications. Such products are utilized to treat urine incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, as well as hernia in humans.
Of the mechanical properties of special significance are the following three properties: peak load (N), extension (%) at peak load, and linear stiffness (N/mm). Uniaxial tensile testing was performed on mesh samples on a universal testing machine and involved loading different samples at 5 cross-head speeds of: 1, 10, 50, 100, and 500 mm/min. The corresponding properties were measured under these 5 conditions. In order to minimize damage to the specimens at the jaws, special dual action pneumatically operated grips with rubber faced jaws were used to hold the samples in place. The effectiveness of these grips was illustrated by the fact that none of the failed samples broke at grips. Statistically significant findings suggest an increasing trend for Prolene® stiffness vs. stretch rate (R2 = 0.9679; two-tailed p value = 0.0025) where the stiffness increases 26.2% when increasing the displacement rate from 1 to 500 mm/min. For extension (%) at peak load, a decreasing trend was found vs. stretch rate (R2 = 0.81; two-tailed p value = 0.037) where increasing the displacement rate from 1 mm/min to 500 mm/min corresponds to a 22% decrease in the relative elongation of the mesh. No statistically significant dependence of peak load on stretch rate was found. These findings may help workers in the biomedical field develop suitable uniaxial tensile testing protocols of such materials.