Advancing the Use of Low Friction Fabric Technology in Design of Support Surfaces and Medical Devices

Many advances have been made in the design of support surfaces (mattresses in particular) that reduce tissue and cell compression, which can lead to pressure ulcers and other wound pathologies.  Yet, surprisingly little attention has been given to reducing the friction between skin and support surface that is associated with shearing and irreversible cell damage.  This is particularly so, since skin is rarely in direct contact with the mattress or cushion.   Research on skin fabric interactions has been somewhat limited by the availability of methods for direct measurement.  Nevertheless, the means for measuring the static and dynamic friction properties of fabrics are well established, whilst other research on the factors influencing the same properties of skin are also well known – most obviously moisture.  The friction properties of any fabric are determined by a combination of factors including the composition and shape of the fibres and yarn, weave or knit and finishing, which can all influence the surface asperities and therefore increase contact area with skin.  Here, we compare the friction properties of several fabrics and their moisture vapour transmission rates.  Consideration is given to the wounds that may be caused or affected by friction between skin and fabric.  Examples are given of products that incorporate low friction fabrics and their effect on blisters, pressure ulcers and burns.