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The Impact of Microclimate on Skin Health With Absorbent Incontinence Product Use: An Integrative Review

Falloon, Sabrina S.; Abbas, Shabira; Stridfeldt, Chatrine; Cottenden, Alan

Journal of Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing: July/August 2018 - Volume 45 - Issue 4 - p 341–348
doi: 10.1097/WON.0000000000000449
Continence Care

This integrative review considers the role of skin occlusion and microclimate in incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD), with a particular focus on disposable, body-worn, absorbent incontinence products. Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, the primary causes of IAD are well-established: occluded skin, in prolonged contact with urine and/or feces and exposed to abrasive forces, is more likely to be affected, and each of these factors can be influenced by wearing absorbent incontinence products. Studies comparing the effect of various absorbent products on skin health have been hindered by the many differences between compared products, making it difficult to clearly attribute any differences in performance to particular materials or design features. Nevertheless, the large and significant differences that have sometimes been found invite further work. Breathable back sheets can significantly reduce the temperature of occluded skin and the humidity of the adjacent air, and several treatments for nonwoven top sheet materials (used next to the skin) have been shown to impart antimicrobial properties in the laboratory, but an impact on IAD incidence or severity has yet to be demonstrated directly. Recent work to introduce sensing technology into absorbent incontinence products to reduce the exposure of skin to urine and feces, by encouraging prompt product changing, seems likely to yield measurable benefits in terms of reducing incidents of IAD as the technology develops. Published work to date suggests that there is considerable potential for products to be engineered to play a significant role in the reduction of IAD among users.

Sabrina S. Falloon, PhD, University College London, London, UK.

Shabira Abbas, PhD, SCA Hygiene Products AB, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Chatrine Stridfeldt, MSc, SCA Hygiene Products AB, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Alan Cottenden, PhD, University College London, London, UK.

Correspondence: Sabrina S. Falloon, PhD, care of Alan Cottenden, Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT, UK (

This work was funded by SCA Hygiene Products AB, Gothenburg, Sweden, and 2 of the authors (Shabira S. Abbas and Chatrine Stridfeldt) are SCA employees.

There are no other conflicts of interest.

© 2018 by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society.