By Tim Barribeau
There’s nothing worse than pulling off a bandaid, especially when it yanks nearby hair out with it. Thankfully, researchers have developed a new kind of medical tape that stays attached to your skin, but can be removed without any pain or damage.
Biomedical Engineers from Harvard and MIT have been working with the problem of medical tape. Not only does it hurt, but its adhesive powers can actually damage skin and cause scars in babies and the elderly. So, how do you create a tape that doesn’t hurt to pull off? You design it to separate somewhere else.
Traditionally, tapes have an adhesive layer that sticks directly to the skin. That takes a lot of force to pull off. The problem is that some people’s skin is weaker than the glue, and that leads to the expected problems. This new medical tape is actually comprised of three layers rather than the traditional two. There’s an additional layer between the backing and the adhesive. The materials are designed to be very strong against shear forces, but peel off easily when pulled back 90 degrees. That way they can still hold medical equipment in place, but be easily removed.
So, what happens when you pull off the tape? The tape intentionally breaks between the adhesive and the backing rather than between the adhesive and the skin. This leaves a thin layer of adhesive intact on the skin — and this can then be gently scraped off without damaging even super fragile patients.
"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," said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Jeffrey Karp, in a release. "Our approach transitions the fracture zone away from the skin to the adhesive-backing interface thus completely preventing any harm during removal."
The authors claim that some 1.5 million injuries are recorded each year from tape removal — but with this new tape, bandaid injuries could be history.