IV Dressing Types: Acrylic vs. Silicone

Despite the prevalence of intravenous (IV) therapy, not enough attention is given to the securement


Despite the prevalence of intravenous (IV) therapy, not enough attention is given to the securement technique and IV dressings used, including the host of complications that can occur all based upon which IV dressing was applied.

Not all IV dressings are made equal, and the choice of dressing, including factors such as acrylic vs. silicone, have an impact on the standard of care, delivery of therapy, patient’s skin and whether or not they will be at high risk for infection or an allergic reaction.

Intravenous (IV) therapy is one of the most common invasive medical procedures used every year – with over 300 million peripheral intravenous catheters (PIV) used annually in the United States alone.

Approximately 60%-90% of hospitalized patients require an IV during their hospital stay – chances are if you’re reading this article you’ve experienced IV therapy yourself.

IV therapy is required for the delivery of life saving medications, fluids and blood directly into a patient’s bloodstream through the vein.

While IV therapy is a common and routine procedure, what’s often overlooked are the complications that can occur from the securement technique and dressings used.

In this article, we look at what IV dressings are used for, the different types, the differences between acrylic vs. silicone and what to look out for when choosing an IV dressing for your patients.

What are IV dressings?

IV vascular access dressings (VADs) are an incredibly important component of the delivery of medicine and healthcare.

They are used to secure catheters and IV cannula to the skin surrounding the insertion site – which opens up direct access to a patient’s bloodstream.

IV dressings are intended to keep the IV in place and protect the patient from bacteria, germs and external contaminants. They are supposed to be comfortable, not only for the duration of wear, but also upon removal.

Yet, not all IV dressings are made equally.

Due to differences in adhesive materials and active ingredients, IV dressings may not provide patients the protection from infection intended and cause medical adhesive related skin injuries (MARSI) surrounding the IV insertion site, an area vulnerable to pathogen entry.

The function of IV dressings

The optimal IV dressings should deliver the following:

  • Protection from external contaminants and infection
  • Transparent observation and assessment of the IV site
  • Patient comfort during wear and dressing changes
  • Protection and maintenance of skin integrity
  • Provide antimicrobial protection to the catheter insertion site and surrounding skin
  • Catheter securement

Ultimately, IV dressings work in conjunction with the entire delivery system of IV therapy.

Even a small medical device, such as an IV dressing and the application and removal of the dressing can play a critical role in the delivery of patient centred care – and mean the difference between pain, infection and delayed healing or comfort, protection and successful patient outcomes.

How IV dressings are designed

IV dressings typically have the following design principles:

  • Shape and size: the shape, size and thickness of the dressing will impact how secure the catheter is especially with patient movement.
  • Adhesive securement: dressings use different adhesive properties to secure the catheter to the patient. These properties may be acrylic or silicone.
  • Site visibility: Dressings can be transparent, translucent or provide no visibility to the site.
  • Antimicrobial protection: Dressings are made with different formulations like chlorhexidine or silver to protect patients from infection.
  • Moisture management (moisture barrier and vapour permeability): Dressings are designed to be permeable to moisture vapor, oxygen, impermeable to external contaminants and should be waterproof allowing patients to shower.
  • Application and Removal: The dressing design should promote efficient and consistent application and removal. It should be easy for healthcare providers to use and remove from the skin without causing adhesive injury.

Complications Associated with IV Device Wounds

Complications from IV therapy can result in pain, infection, delayed treatment, and even sepsis in worst-case scenarios.

Poor placement technique, lack of hygiene, and the wrong IV dressing can lead to the following complications:

  • Dislodgement – Failure to protect the IV site with the right dressing can lead to the catheter dislodging or being removed by the patient.
  • Vessel wall trauma – Catheter movement can damage the vessel wall and potentially cause thrombosis (blood clot formation).
  • Extravasation – Leaking of medication or fluid into surrounding tissue.
  • Phlebitis – Inflammation leading to a blood clot in the vein.
  • Medical Adhesive-Related Skin Injuries (MARSI) – Trauma caused by strong or incompatible adhesive on sensitive skin.
  • Bloodstream infections – Entry of bacteria or microorganisms into the IV site, leading to infections like central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI).

The Difference Between Acrylic vs. Silicone Dressings

IV dressings secure catheters, prevent infection, protect skin integrity, and aid healing of insertion wounds.

The adhesive properties play a critical role in both the dressing’s function and patient experience.

The two most common adhesives are acrylic and silicone. Let’s explore their pros and cons for both functionality and patient comfort.

Acrylic Adhesives

Acrylic adhesives are known for their incredible strength due to their tackiness.

Acrylic can perform well when it comes to holding, fixing and gripping – but the cost is that acrylics can be incredibly traumatic to the patient’s skin. They can also be time consuming to move, requiring healthcare providers to use solvents and scrapers.  

Acrylic dressings are often less costly.  

Silicone Adhesives

Soft silicone adhesives offer secure adhesion while minimizing trauma during dressing changes.

Silicone dressings are flexible both in design and function but also are suitable for a wide range of indications where it’s especially important to prevent trauma to the patient, their skin and the wound.  

Silicone adhesives can be more expensive to produce.  

The pros and cons of acrylic vs silicone adhesives 

The two most common adhesives used in IV dressings are acrylic and silicone, both of which come with their own unique advantages and disadvanages.

Acrylic adhesives

  • Strong, tacky and rigid 
  • Can cause epidermal stripping on removal 
  • Supports devices and tubes for a long period of time
  • Breathable 
  • Rough and traumatic on skin
  • Often require skin barrier be applied prior to protect the skin site
  • Require adhesive removers and “low & slow” technique to avoid sin in injury 

Silicone adhesives 

  • Secure, malleable and flexible
  • Gentle and atraumatic on skin
  • Atraumatic on removal to prevent epidermal stripping and skin injury 
  • Clean and gentle removal without use of adhesive removers
  • Do not require skin barriers or protectants be applied prior to use
  • Prevent scarring 
  • Breathable
  • No adhesive remover required for safe removal 

Selecting the right IV dressing for the patient

While IV therapy is commonplace, it’s critical to remember the potential harm that can occur to the patient when the right tools and technique aren’t used.  When deciding which IV dressing to use, it’s important to put the patient first.  If you have a patient that has delicate skin, will be wearing an IV securement dressing for long periods of time and would like to minimize pain and trauma – a silicone securement dressing may be the way to go. 

It’s important to take into consideration the full application and removal process – both the steps involved and what mitigation factors may or may not need to be taken if the application or removal doesn’t go well. For example, your team may find successful application and securement with acrylic dressings, but are you spending extra time removing residue with solvents, scraping and dealing with the trauma of cringeworthy dressing removals?

Beyond deciding between silicone and acrylic adhesives, consider the complete design of the dressing – is it possible to find all of the essential components of a high-performing IV dressing all-in-one? Empower yourself to make informed choices and elevate patient care today.



Disclaimer: The information contained on this blog is provided as a resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes, or as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional.

If you are an individual reading this, please consult your health care provider before making any health care decisions, for guidance about a specific medical condition, and for use of any specific products. Covalon expressly disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any damages, loss, injury, or claim whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on any of the material or information contained in its blog articles or on the website

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