Wound Care Essentials: Choosing the Right Medical Tape

Published in Member Communities on March 25, 2024

Wound Care Essentials: Choosing the Right Medical Tape By Heather Trumm, Director, VGM Wound Care 

We may not realize it, but medical tapes are an essential part of proper wound care. When it comes to tape, where do we start? And who knew there were so many kinds of medical tape to choose from?  

When looking at tape and wondering which type is best to use or recommend, there are a couple of things to consider. First, what is the reason you are using tape? Is it to secure a dressing in place? Is it to help secure a catheter or G-tube in place? There are other functions that tape has as well, but we will highlight the most common.  

Factors and Characteristics of Tape 

When looking at a tape to use, there are certain factors to consider. We want to make sure the tape sticks but does not damage the skin. A statistic I ran across when researching this topic was that an average skin tear costs $88. WOW! Therefore, avoiding damage to the skin by using the correct tape will not only cause less pain, but save money as well.  

We also should know the characteristics of tape. For example, is it breathable, water resistant, or fluid resistant and/or flexible?  

  • Durability: Consider whether the tape can be removed and re-stuck without losing effectiveness. 
  • Wear time: Evaluate how long the tape will retain its integrity when adhered to the body. 
  • Conformability: Assess how well the tape adapts to device and body movement. 

Tape Categories and Skin Type 

Paper tape or micropore tape consists of a paper backing with an adhesive layer. It is breathable and gentle on the skin. It is used for securing dressing on the skin, and it is easy to remove without causing pain or skin damage.  

Cloth tape is made from cloth material and has a strong adhesion. It is great to secure catheters and other medical devices as well as for wound care. Because of its adhesive properties, this tape would not be good on fragile skin. When securing a catheter or other medical device, the tape may be manipulated to be stuck on a cloth or tube.  

Foam tape is another type of tape. It is soft and conformable and ideal for securing dressings. The barrier backing of the tape keeps bad bacteria out. The foam portion of the tape creates a cushion effect and reduces the risk of pressure injuries. This type of tape is commonly used after a hip or knee replacement. I remember my mother-in-law coming home from the hospital after knee replacement surgery with this type of dressing on. 

Surgical tape is cloth-like tape that provides a secure adhesion. It is made of durable material that is great for immobilization situations such as holding catheters in place. It is only used in dry conditions and will not adhere to moist environments. Another benefit of this tape is it is easily torn lengthwise and crosswise.  

Transparent film is a type of adhesive tape most known for securing IV sites, but it also is used for holding dressings into place. The advantage of transparent film is that you can see through it.  

Remember that individual patient needs vary, so tailor your choice of medical tape based on the specific wound, skin condition, and intended purpose. Always prioritize patient safety and comfort. Proper selection of medical tape ensures effective wound care and patient comfort. 

Our vendor partner, 3M, understands the intersection of adhesives and skin health. With all the intricacies that surround medical tapes, it can often be a complicated product to understand. Medical tapes can be a strategic area of value, with the right supplier providing the right products and the right tools for your needs. Click here to learn more about their medical tape offerings. 

For any questions, please contact me at Heather.Trumm@vgm.com


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