Bandages hurt no matter which way you go about trying to remove them from skin. Ripping it fast or slowly, however you prefer, it still hurts.
It’s especially hard on premature babies who are hooked up to tubes and monitors. A premature baby’s skin can rip more easily than bandage tape. In some cases, bandage tape removal can cause lifetime scarring. Every year, more than 1.5 million people suffer scarring and skin irritation from medical tape, and the majority of those are infants or elderly people, who have fragile skin.
Biomedical engineers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston developed a new kind of medical tape; one that can be removed without damaging skin. The medical tape will stick but can still be peeled apart easily, without yanking skin or body hair off along with it.
Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital said, “This is just a huge unmet need.”
MIT news reported about the research behind the new medical tape. “A standard medical tape backing is made of a thin sheet of polymer such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). To create the new middle layer, the researchers coated the side that contacts the adhesive with a thin layer of silicone, forming what is called a release liner. This liner is very similar to the strips of slick paper that you have to peel from a Band-Aid before putting it on your skin.”
“The researchers found that adding this layer alone made it too easy for the tape to be pulled off, so they etched grid lines into the silicone with a laser, exposing some of the PET backing. The PET sticks to the adhesive layer more strongly, so the researchers can control the adhesiveness of the release liner by altering how much of the PET is revealed by the grid lines,” MIT added.
Kahp-Yang Suh, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Seoul National University but not part of the research says, “What is innovative here is to create a dual functional adhesive interface, while generating no skin irritation upon detachment. Also, the ability to control peeling force via release-layer micropatterning will offer a versatile route to other types of adhesives.”
Researchers have filed for a patent on the new medical tape and are now working to secure regulatory approval for safety tests on human adults.
It’s still unclear if the bandages will be sold at drugstores in the future, but if the demand is there and the tests go well, it might not be long before we see.