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Quick-release tape could prevent neonatal skin injuries

October 29, 2012|By Eryn Brown | Los Angeles Times
  • Researchers have designed a new quick-release medical tape that won't tear the skin of babies in neonatal units, according to a new paper released Monday.
Researchers have designed a new quick-release medical tape that won't… (Karp Lab and Brigham and…)

Talk about a boo-boo.

Every year, Americans suffer more than 1.5 injuries from medical tape removal — and the ones who suffer most are babies in neonatal units, whose fragile skin is easily ripped when nurses and doctors remove medical devices affixed to the infants by super-sticky adhesive.  Some kids suffer permanent scarring. Senior citizens are frequently hurt by tape removal too.

To try to help out these fragile-skinned patients, a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, along with collaborators at MIT, have invented a new type of quick-release medical tape that may reduce skin injuries. 

When ripped away from the body, with its three-layer design that inserts a laser-etched release liner between the tape backing and the sticky adhesive, it doesn’t tear apart from the skin. Rather, the backing of the tape peels away from the sticky stuff, leaving a coating of adhesive on the skin that can then be gently removed “using a rolling motion.”

“We designed quick-release medical tape for sensitive skin such that the weakest attachment point is between the backing and adhesive layers, thereby avoiding large stresses and strains on the skin during removal,” wrote the team in an article Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The design, which is inspired by the flaky layers of mica, retains the strength of traditional medical adhesives, the team reported. During one test of its properties, the scientists affixed the new tape to origami paper.  When torn away, it didn’t damage the paper, unlike commercial paper and plastic tapes.

“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,” lead author Bryan Laulicht, a biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a statement.

A research article describing the new tape technology in more detail is available at the PNAS website (subscription required).  

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