Even under normal conditions it’s tough to stick something to skin. Skin is flexible. It stretches and sweats. Skin’s natural oils cause water to bead up. A medical adhesive must accommodate all these conditions and more.
And stickiness is only half the equation. A medical adhesive must also remove easily, without causing pain, and without leaving residue or damaging often delicate skin.
The science of sticky
A pressure-sensitive adhesive that sticks firmly yet is easy to remove requires the right physical properties. It must tolerate movement and moisture, and be scientifically formulated to transmit vapor away from the skin.
Creating such an adhesive requires cutting-edge science and technology. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach that combines the efforts of numerous professionals including engineers, chemists and biologists. But the results are worth the effort: better patient experience and a higher standard of care.
Wound care that helps heal, doesn’t hurt
A good wound dressing helps create an environment where a wound can heal. And it does the job without increasing the risk of Medical Adhesive-Related Skin Injuries (MARSI).
The adhesive in the dressing plays an important role. It should move vapor away from the skin to prevent moisture build-up that could cause the adhesive to fail and the dressing to lift. When a dressing is removed from skin the adhesive should facilitate a removal that is gentle, doesn’t cause pain and doesn’t leave a residue.
Medical adhesives are also a critical component of the numerous medical tapes used throughout the health care continuum. Health care providers need a variety of tapes to address a variety of clinical needs. Some medical tapes feature high adhesion for damp skin. Others, like some silicone tapes, can be easily repositioned or cleanly removed without causing pain.
A surgical drape that stays put
One of the most significant risks to a patient during surgery is the bacteria that lives on their own skin. Surgical preps do not sterilize the skin. There is always some bacteria left on the patient’s skin even after the most effective prep.
An incise drape, applied before surgery begins, provides a sterile surface all the way to the edge of the surgical wound. The drape immobilizes bacteria on the skin to help reduce the risk of bacterial wound contamination. But in order to reduce the risk of surgical site contamination, the drape must stay put.
Many procedures, like heart surgery, require the surgeon to retract the skin after incision which puts a lot of stress on the drape. You must have a good adhesive to keep the drape in place. And drape lift during surgery has been associated with an increased risk of surgical site infection (SSI).1 An adhesive with a high degree of stickiness can help prevent drape lift.
Deploying science to improve patient experience and cost of care
For patients, a wound dressing or surgical drape that works as intended helps achieve the desired outcomes and avoid complications that can cause the patient and their family pain, suffering and expense. And it gives health care professionals the peace of mind they’re doing all they can to provide the best possible standard of care.
Science plays a role in choosing a clinical approach. But it’s how science is used to comfort and protect patients that makes it powerful.
1Alexander JW, Aerni S, and Plettner JP. 1985. Development of a safe and effective one-minute preoperative skin preparation. Arch Surg. 120:1357-1361.