Guidewires – Essential Design Considerations

Guidewires are an essential component of many minimally invasive medical devices, including many advanced catheter products. There are multiple types of guidewires available, with different technologies, materials, designs, and performance characteristics. In this blog, we’ll look at the essential design features that should be considered when looking at guidewires for your product.

Guidewires are designed to navigate often tortuous vasculatures to reach target treatment or diagnostic sites within the body. They are also used in the placement of interventional devices, and they enable the placement of catheter devices while also helping to stabilise and precisely position catheters at the target location.

Therefore, guidewires are essential to the successful completion of a range of different medical procedures. If you are developing a new catheter or another type of medical device, guidewires are a crucial component. Here are the essential design considerations that you need to be aware of.

Guidewire Performance Characteristics

There are a number of performance characteristics that are important when designing or choosing a guidewire for your minimally invasive medical device.

Push Control

Push control (often referred to as pushability) is the ability to push the guidewire through vessels to reach the target location.


The responsiveness of the guidewire tip as the clinician steers the guidewire through the body’s vasculature. Both steerability and push control are part of the guidewire’s trackability.

Torque Control

Torque control is the responsiveness of the guidewire to turn inside vessels as the clinician applies rotational force. The ideal objective in most situations is 1:1 torque, where the rotational force applied by the clinician at the proximal end of the guidewire is translated at a 1:1 ratio at the distal tip.


The ability of the guidewire to maintain trackability and torque control while flexing on its longitudinal axis.


The visibility of the guidewire to the clinician as it is being navigated through the body to the target location. Visibility is typically achieved under fluoroscopic imaging. For some applications, radiopaque markings are required along the guidewire to offer enhanced visibility.

Catheter Guidewire Design Considerations

Guidewire Tips

The tip is one of the most important components of a guidewire as the design needs to prevent the perforation of vessel walls while facilitating the navigation of the guidewire through the required vasculatures.

There are various tip shapes that are possible, including J-curve or straight tips, as well as different levels of rigidity/flexibility. J-tip variations can be designed to straighten when required.

Tip shape retention is a key characteristic for many applications, where the tip can flex while tracking through vessels, before returning back to its original shape.

Core Taper

Guidewires have two main elements – the core and the tip. How the guidewire’s core tapers to the tip is an important consideration, especially in relation to the length of the core taper. In general, short tapers provide added support while long tapers are easier to track.


The addition of a hydrophilic coating to the guidewire reduces friction as it is tracked to the target location.

Tactile Feel

High levels of tactile feel make it easier for the clinician to navigate the guidewire. However, there is often an inverse relationship between tactile feel and lubricity (see the above point on lubricity). Greater lubricity reduces friction as the guidewire passes through vessels, but it also reduces tactile feedback.

Braiding and Coiling

The addition of braiding or coiling over the core wire increases the flexibility of the guidewire and improves its ability to return back to shape.

Stiffness Versus Flexibility

Greater stiffness provides more support for the catheter, for example, while greater flexibility enables the navigation of more complex vasculatures. In terms of flexibility, the goal is often to achieve a no-memory effect to ensure there is no pressure on vessel walls during procedures.

Tip Load

The force needed to bend the tip.

Crossing Ability

This is the ability of the guidewire to navigate obstructions, as well as the ability of the catheter to navigate through or by the same obstacles when being passed over the guidewire. In other words, it is not enough for the guidewire to cross the obstruction if the catheter can’t then follow.


The most common materials used in guidewires are nitinol or stainless steel. Both offer different performance characteristics. For example, nitinol offers flexibility and kink resistance while stainless steel has excellent torque control characteristics.


How long does the guidewire need to be to reach the target location?


Smaller diameter guidewires allow for more complex procedures, including those where smaller or more tortuous vessels need to be tracked. Almost all the above guidewire performance features and characteristics factor into decisions on diameter.

Guidewire Expertise at Arrotek

At Arrotek, we offer comprehensive design services for catheters and other minimally invasive medical devices. This includes guidewires and all other components of your product. We can also call on the expertise and product range of our sister company, Galt Medical. Galt manufactures and supplies OEM and private-label guidewires.To discuss your project in the strictest confidence, please complete the form below. A member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.