July 14, 2017 | Matthew B. Boyd

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How Flexible Materials Innovation Advances Wound Care and Closure


The cutting-edge of wound care is a progressively flexible one, where textiles, foams, and films are applied to wound management technology with the goal of synergistic physiological function. These innately intuitive materials underpin the emerging medical solutions that practitioners and their patients are finding more effective than traditional wound care and closure methods. With an aging population more frequently seeking medical care and a surge in diabetes diagnoses, market analysts predict a continuing rise in demand for advanced wound care management products, fueling an annual industry growth rate of 6.4% over the next five years.


Flexible Materials in Chronic Wound Treatment

Advanced flexibility delivers improved quality of life. Particularly well-suited to the treatment of complex and chronic wounds, customized thin films, nonwovens, advanced textiles, foams, and adhesives provide a foundation for holistic wound management plans. Patients with access to advanced wound care experience:

  • Decreased tissue maceration and scarring with wound dressings designed to maintain a moist wound environment.
  • Increased levels of physical activity while in recovery as a benefit of the wound dressing's flexibility and conforming characteristics.
  • Improved pain management through wound contact layer administered medications and/or non-stick, soothing flexible material surfaces.
  • Extended potential for hygienic at-home care by means of patient-friendly high exudate wound dressings that need changing less frequently.

These advanced wound care and closure methods promote rapid healing and provide relief post-operative recoveries, recurring lesions, and compounding medical bills due to repeated treatments and hospital visits.



Flexible Materials in Specialized Wound Management

Highly customizable materials maximize practitioner efficiency. Healthcare practitioners are experiencing expanded availability of advanced wound care and closure alternatives. With the ability to tailor the properties of flexible materials for specialized wound management applications, product developers are introducing improved reliability and efficiency into healthcare practitioners' procedures.

Surgeons have reported a decrease in post-operative infections due to the use of adhesive, mesh, and film rather than traditional closure methods. This is attributed to a decrease in the time required to complete the closure procedure as well as the improved ability to visually monitor the wound during after-care. Moreover, wound sterilization, in general, becomes more reliable when composite dressings include antimicrobials - in the adhesives, as coated film barriers, or impregnated foam.


Flexible Materials in Transdermal Medication

Flexible materials also provide the means for transdermal medication, independent of, or integrated into, a wound dressing contact layer. This relieves the stress of digestive disruption caused by oral ingestion of antibiotics and painkillers, which can adversely affect recovery time and patient well-being.


Medical Device Innovations Enabled by Flexible Materials

Diverse wound care requirements drive flexible materials developments. As emerging wound care and closure products surge into a receptive market, the next wave is already in development, preparing to advance. Small and large companies alike see the potential in proprietary customization of films, adhesives, foams, mesh, and textiles and are taking full advantage of the opportunity to grow their brand by enhancing wound care effectiveness within the medical community.

Smith & Nephew's pressure ulcer prevention dressings combine several of these features into their Allevyn Life line of products designed to conform to the patient's physiology, granting superior barrier performance while accommodating range of motion. Their multi-layer wound dressings incorporate a waterproof, oxygen permeable polyurethane barrier film, hydrocellular foam, and a non-stick silicone adhesive contact layer. Similar in functionality, yet enhanced for use with infected wounds, Essity's Cutamed(R) Sorbact(R) Hydroctive B advanced wound dressings also consists of a semi-permeable polyurethane barrier film, but utilizes a poly-sulfonate hydrogel adhesive, hydro polymer absorption matrix, and a proprietary bacteria-binding acetate mesh.



Advancements in alternative wound closure methods are well-illustrated by Ethicon's Dermabond(R) Prineo(R) Skin Closure system. Studies have shown that simplifying and expediting the closure procedure with 2-octyl cyanoacrylate adhesive and polyester mesh can lead to a significant reduction in patient readmission rate - 1.8% of the patient group studied, compared to 4.4% of the patient group with conventional skin staples.

ClozeX, an invention of Michael Lebner of Wellesley Hills, MA, is also a simplified, cleaner solution to wound and incision closure. It is comprised of a layered arrangement of coaptive transparent film that, when released sequentially under tension, draws the wound together. This new technology received the Medical Design Excellence Award in 2005 and continues to grow in popularity today. Both ClozeX and Ethicon's advanced closure systems decrease the occurrence of post-operative infection, facilitate and simplify after-care, and improve healed scar tissue's appearance.



Flexible materials continue to facilitate new generations of advanced wound care solutions. With the potential to relieve overcrowding in healthcare facilities through expedited and efficient treatment, decreased readmission due to complications, and facilitation of self-care, these emerging medical technologies are increasingly in demand by both patients and practitioners.

The advanced wound care product market is expected to approach $15.8 billion in revenue by the end of 2022. Functional films, nonwovens, textiles, foams, and adhesives play a vital role in advanced wound care management: as barriers, substrates for medications, and as a means of controlled exudate absorption. The functional flexible materials and advanced wound care management markets are evolving together, synergistically responsive to the requirements of medical practitioners and the well-being of their patients.


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