Practical Pearls

Simplify Postoperative Self-removal of Bandages for Isolated Patients With Limited Range of Motion Using Pull Tabs

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We describe how we designed, constructed, and applied 2 prototypes of easy self-removal pull tab bandage construction and report on the use of these prototypes in a patient with 2 discrete squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). The easy-removal feature benefits patients who have little in the way of a support system; have limited range of motion; or want to minimize their exposure to disease-transmitting agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, in public places.



Practice Gap

A male patient presented with 2 concerning lesions, which histopathology revealed were invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) on the right medial chest and SCC in situ on the right upper scapular region. Both were treated with wide local excision; margins were clear in our office the same day.

This case highlighted a practice gap in postoperative care. Two factors posed a challenge to proper postoperative wound care for our patient:

Because of the high risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the patient hoped to limit exposure by avoiding an office visit to remove the bandage.

The patient did not have someone at home to serve as an immediate support system, which made it impossible for him to rely on others for postoperative wound care.

Previously, the patient had to ask a friend to remove a bandage for melanoma in situ on the inner aspect of the left upper arm. Therefore, after this procedure, the patient asked if the bandage could be fashioned in a manner that would allow him to remove it without assistance (Figure 1).

Case patient wearing prototype #1, an easy-removal pulltab bandage.

FIGURE 1. Case patient wearing prototype #1, an easy-removal pulltab bandage.


In constructing a bandage that is easier to remove, some necessary pressure that is provided by the bandage often is sacrificed by making it looser. Considering that our patient had moderate bleeding during the procedure—in part because he took low-dose aspirin (81 mg/d)—it was important to maintain firm pressure under the bandage postoperatively to help prevent untoward bleeding. Furthermore, because of the location of the treated site and the patient’s limited range of motion, it was not feasible for him to reach the area on the scapula and remove the bandage.1

For easy self-removal, we designed a bandage with a pull tab that was within the patient’s reach. Suitable materials for the pull tab bandage included surgical tape, bandaging tape with adequate stretch, sterile nonadhesive gauze, fenestrated surgical gauze, and a topical emollient such as petroleum jelly or antibacterial ointment.

To clean the site and decrease the amount of oil that would reduce the effectiveness of the adhesive, the wound was prepared with 70% alcohol. The site was then treated with petroleum jelly.

Next, we designed 2 pull tab bandage prototypes that allowed easy self-removal. For both prototypes, sterile nonadhesive gauze was applied to the wound along with folded and fenestrated gauze, which provided pressure. We used prototype #1 in our patient, and prototype #2 was demonstrated as an option.


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