Have you discovered Coban yet? My medical assistant and I were cleaning a slow healing leg venous ulcer on an older patient. It had been there for months. Making matters worse was the tape she was using to fasten covering bandages was tearing off the fragile skin around the ulcer. The result had been several infections requiring antibiotics.

My helpful assistant suggested rather than taping the bandage, that we use Coban. “What is Coban?” I asked puzzled. “Let me get some and show you,” she offered helpfully.

In a few moments, she brought in a roll of tan colored stretchy stuff that looked a little like an ace bandage. The difference was you could tear it with your fingers, it didn’t have any annoying sharp clips or even Velcro, and it was amazingly effective in adhering to itself. No tape, nothing, and it doesn’t feel sticky. This is called a self-adherent or a cohesive bandage.

I just had what amounted to a medical epiphany. From that day on, Coban has been my go-to product for wrapping and compression in clinic. While perhaps not the highest biotechnology, it has the honor of being useful, practical, inexpensive and innovative. Further, it’s easy to apply, has consistent material performance and doesn’t slip. Patients report high satisfaction.

It was invented by scientist Jan Schuren as a two-layer compression system using Pascal’s Law of compression therapy. Its stretchy nature allows it to be used to compress areas of swelling, such as edema and injury. It’s compressive nature has been shown to speed healing of venous stasis ulcers.

It can hold pressure over a venipuncture site to reduce bruising and bleeding. It can safely cover and protect not only an ulcer, but a burn, or other wound. It can cover an Unna Boot instead of using an ace wrap, which is thicker and hotter. If you’ve given blood or had labs drawn lately, you might’ve had some put on your arm.

You’ve seen professional athletes with sports tape over various body parts to reduce further injury. I’ve used Coban for sore or sprained wrists and elbows, knees and ankles with ease and effectiveness. You can easily learn to apply it yourself at home.

Coban is manufactured by 3M. A similar product by Andover called CoFlex comes in a variety of colors, designs and child-pleasing patterns. It’s also widely used by veterinarians, so you can also use Coban or CoFlex on your injured animal companions. It comes in a latex free form as well. Both are available online or at your local pharmacy.

Keep some around the house. You can’t tell when it will come in handy. It’s a little like duct tape that way. I like the 4-inch size and any color or design you like will do.

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” — Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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