Scientists have developed a plaster that is strongly adhesive but easily removable, which they hope will prevent skin damage in patients with fragile skin such as neonates and the elderly.
"Current adhesive tapes that contain backing and adhesive layers are tailored to fracture at the adhesive-skin interface. With adults the adhesive fails leaving small remnants of adhesive on the skin while with fragile neonate skin, the fracture is more likely to occur in the skin causing significant damage," commented study author Michael Karp (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) in a press statement.
"Our approach transitions the fracture zone away from the skin to the adhesive-backing interface thus completely preventing any harm during removal," he explained.
The researchers used an anisotropic interface, created using laser etching, between the adhesive and backing layers to allow the plaster to have different properties depending on the direction of the force applied to it.
In this way, Karp and team created a tape with high shear strength for strong adhesion and a low peel force allowing quick and easy removal.
They found that any adhesive remaining on the skin can be easily removed by carefully pushing and rolling and that "thick continuous films of adhesive are easier to remove than the thin islands associated with residual adhesive left by current medical tapes."
Plaster or medical tape removal in adults and older children can cause momentary discomfort, but does not usually cause skin damage. However, in neonates and the elderly the lack of an epidermis and the thinner, more loosely anchored nature of the skin, respectively, mean that such removal can actively damage the skin surface. Indeed, 1.5 million such injuries occur each year in the USA.
"This is one of the biggest problems faced in the neonate units, where the patients are helpless and repeatedly wrapped in medical tapes designed for adult skin," commented co-author Bryan Laulicht, from the Division of Biomedical Engineering at Harvard.
The results of this study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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