What Is Medical Adhesive?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Medical adhesive is specially formulated to be hypoallergenic and safe for use on patients as well as medical devices that may be autoclaved and used in medical procedures. Depending on the intended use, it can contain a variety of ingredients. Medical specialty suppliers are common sources for medical adhesives, although some are also made by firms that specialize in adhesive products. It is important to select an appropriate formulation for a given application.


One category of medical adhesives includes what are also known as skin adhesives. They are designed for use by patients who need to be able to attach things like ostomy bags, collection pouches, and other devices to their skin. The adhesive is nontoxic and nonirritating, but has a firm hold that won’t release until the patient needs to remove the object. This can be important for something like a urine collection pouch, which the patient wants to stay secure for hygiene and comfort.

Prosthetics and other medical devices may require a medical adhesive in their construction, repair, or maintenance. In this case, the product is designed to glue together metals, plastics, and other components, but it still needs to be biologically friendly. Patients may use the medical adhesive for servicing at home and it can also be employed by surgeons and other personnel. Adhesives may be used in the custom fabrication of medical advices for patients or clinical trials, for instance.

Another use for medical adhesive is in the management of equipment. Surgeons can use adhesives on tools like racks and positioners. They need a product that will survive the autoclave, pose minimal risk to the patient, and hold materials together as desired. This can result in a rather unique formulation to meet these needs. Adhesives manufacturers test components carefully to make sure they will meet technical standards as well as guidelines set out for medical products, as otherwise they may not receive approval to manufacture an adhesive for medical use.

Some companies provide individually packaged medical adhesive products for one time use. This is common for surgery and medical device positioning where practitioners want to make sure patients are protected from the risk of infection. It can also be useful for people with equipment like ostomy bags who need to travel. Instead of carrying a container of adhesive, they can pack some individual units to use as-needed, which can save space in their luggage and reduce problems in security lines.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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