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New medical tape pushes and rolls away without the pain

Medical tape -- one of healthcare’s greatest dualities. Essential for wound healing, a bandage with stick often leaves with a sting. Until now, that is.

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Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have invented a quick-release tape with the same potency as previous brands, but without the accustomed removal pains.

A survey of neonatal clinicians prompted the BWH cohort, lead by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, to create a formidable adhesive that would not facilitate tissue damage.   

"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," Karp said in a news release. "Our approach transitions the fracture zone away from the skin to the adhesive-backing interface thus completely preventing any harm during removal."

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Laser etching technology and a release liner allowed for the research team to establish an anisotropic interface center layer, which promotes an elevated shear strength and a lesser peel force; thus, any tape remaining on the skin once the backing has been discarded, can be pushed and rolled away painlessly from a patient’s body. With more than 1.5 million injuries occurring in the United States each year due to medical tape removal — grievances that sometimes end in scarring and skin irritation — the innovation couldn’t come soon enough. And particularly with demographics whose epidermises are characterized as more delicate (infants and the elderly) BMW’s tearless tape certainly isn’t without its core niche.

According to Bryan Laulicht, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine and lead study author, prior adhesives were made with a one-size, one severity fits all modus, leaving youngsters and seniors to the whim of adult-designed aides.

"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," Laulicht said.

Research support and consultation came from the following institutions and individuals: The Institute for Pediatric Innovation via Philips Children's Medical Ventures and the National Institutes of Health, The Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, and Robert Langer, PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study outlining the tape design was electronically revealed on Oct. 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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