From moisture management to wearable tech, adhesive developments make a major difference in quality patient care and device innovation. Dr Neal Carty, research scientist and manager for medical and scientific affairs at Vancive Medical Technologies, shares five important advances.

In the competitive medical device industry, every component and material has the potential to drive innovation, reduce costs, improve patient outcomes and enable better quality of care. Medical adhesives present a prime example of a device input influencing product performance and adoption rate, and customer satisfaction. Adhesive advances have elevated the role these materials play in medical device ingenuity. Here are five trends to watch.

1. Extended wear time
Wear time is essential to the effectiveness of skin-contacting devices. Adhesive developers have made great strides to deliver new products that can adhere to the skin for many days at a time. Because human skin is a constantly changing moist substrate with complex topology, easy removal and the ability to provide extended wear time are the toughest challenges for the medical adhesives industry. Device developers can use new adhesive materials, benefitting from their combination of strong staying power and atraumatic release properties.

2. Fluid handling
Moisture management is a key consideration for any device that must successfully adhere to skin. Water is ubiquitous on the skin’s surface, in liquid and vapour forms, and within the tissue itself. Skin adhesives must retain bond strength in the presence of water, especially in certain demanding applications. Adhesives can be called upon to trap effluent in an ostomy application or handle exudate from a wound. In some instances during device application, such as in the surgical theatre, they are required to stick to surfaces that are already wet.

One notable adhesive advancement merges the fluid-handling attributes of breathability and absorbency in an innovative way. In appearance, Vancive’s Thin Absorbent Skin Adhesive (TASA) resembles an ordinary acrylic adhesive: it is thin, transparent and breathable, and offers secure adhesion to the skin, but uniquely, the formulation also offers absorbency. This capability can help to support extended wear time and minimise skin maceration in applications complicated by the presence of excessive moisture.

3. Conformability and transparency
Modern medical devices often must be worn by patients that are increasingly mobile. The device must move with the patient and become one with the body part to which it is attached. The newest absorbent adhesives are extremely thin, approximately 100µm, and conform to difficult-to-adhere areas such as elbow and knee joints. High conformability is also crucial for devices that must attach to the abdomen, chest, lower back and sacral areas.

Closely related to conformability is transparency. A feature offered in advanced adhesives such as TASA, transparency allows discreet device attachment. When there is a thin transparent top film, the product means clinicians and patients can clearly see through the material to monitor the tissue underneath, even when the dressing comes into contact with moisture. The combination of thinness, conformability and transparency makes the adhesive essentially invisible on the skin. From a quality standpoint, the ability to see through the material offers important advantages for caregivers that monitor skin condition, wound healing progress and IV-insertion-site stability.

4. Enhanced properties
Device-makers have opportunities to imbue their products with additional properties through adhesive systems. Advanced active adhesives can be engineered to offer embedded chemicals, antimicrobials, pharmaceuticals and even cosmetics. These additives can address problems such as odour and bacterial contamination. They also have the potential to be used for transdermal delivery of medication, moisture and heat.

5. Wearable technology and digital health
Digital health device developers can use advanced adhesive systems to securely attach all sorts of wearable e-health devices to the body. For example, miniaturised sensors can be embedded into adhesive patches to capture thousands of biometric data points for analysis, as in Vancive’s Metria Informed Health portfolio.

Pressure-sensitive adhesives can also be integral for home health-device securement. Mobile devices worn by the patient promise to be used more prevalently for remote real-time monitoring of activity levels, sleep patterns, heart health, weight, blood glucose levels and medication compliance.