The main aims of this study were to describe the effects of incontinence pad composition on skin wetness, the skin/pad microclimate, and skin barrier function. We also evaluated the potential utility of our methods for future clinical investigation of absorbent pad design.
Single-blind, quasi-experimental, open cohort design.
SUBJECTS AND SETTING:
Twenty healthy older volunteers (mean age = 72.8 years, SD = 5.8 years; 8 male and 12 female) tested 2 absorbent pad types, with acquisition layers of different compositions (A and B) applied to different sites on the volar aspect of the forearms. One type A pad served as control (A dry) versus 3 pad samples wetted with 3 volumes of saline (A 15 mL, A 35 mL, and B 15 mL). The study was conducted within the clinical laboratory of a university nursing research group in the United Kingdom.
Skin barrier function was assessed by measuring transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum (SC) hydration by corneometry, and skin surface pH using a standard skin pH electrode. Skin water loading (excess water penetration into the skin) was quantified by measuring TEWL and creating a desorption curve of the water vapor flux density. Calculating the area under the curve of the desorption curve to give skin surface water loss reflected excess water penetration into the skin. In a subgroup of the sample, the temperature and relative humidity (microclimate) at the interface between the skin and test pads were measured using a wafer-thin sensor placed between the skin and pad sample. Proinflammatory cytokine release from the SC was assessed using a noninvasive lipophilic film. The main outcome measures in this study were the differences in biophysical measurements of skin barrier function (TEWL, corneometer, and pH) before and after the application of the different pads.
Mean ± SD baseline TEWL across all test sites was 10.4 ± 4.4 g/h/m2. This increased to 10.6 ± 3.8 g/h/m2 at the control site, 15.3 ± 6.3 g/h/m2 for the A 15-mL pad, 15.3 ± 3.9 g/h/m2 for the A 35-mL pad, and 15.6 ± 3.2 g/h/m2 for the B 15-mL pad. The mean baseline skin surface pH was 5.9 ± 0.04; cutaneous pH increased to a mean of 6.1 ± 0.06 following all pad applications (P = .16). Mean SC hydration remained unchanged at the control site (A dry). In contrast, SC hydration increased following the application of all wetted pads. Target cytokines were detected in all samples we analyzed. The IL-1RA/IL-1α ratio increased following pad application, except for the wettest pad.
Study findings suggest that absorbent pad design and composition, particularly the acquisition layer, affect performance and may influence skin health. Based on our experience with this study, we believe the methods we used provide a simple and objective means to evaluate product performance that could be used to guide the future development of products and applied to clinical settings.