Medical Gels Types and Differences

Medical gels are routinely used in clinical practice, particularly during physical exams and diagnostic procedures like ultrasonography and endoscopy. These are specially formulated gels that could serve many purposes, from transmitting high frequency signal waves to soothing the skin during a laser procedure, and so on.

 On this post, we will tackle the different types of medical gels and their uses, as well as the proper use and storage of these important products.

Conductive Gel

For medical and physiotherapy treatments

     Widely used for electrotherapy and physiotherapy, conductive gels are applied to the body of the patient to reduce its impedance to help facilitate the the delivery of an electric shock. This gel provides a high conductive effect for clear and accurate recording and lower electrical artifacts (errors). Conductive gels are chemically neutral and provide proper adhesion for electrodes. It should be hypoallergenic, water-soluble, microbiologically pure, and dermatologically tested. Other medical procedures in which conductive gels are used include: 

    • Cardioversion
    • EEG recording
    • Electromyography (EMG)
    • Defibrillation
    • Psychiatric electrotherapy
    • Nerve conduction study and velocity (NCS, NCV)
    • Electrostimulation (EMS, TENS)

    Laser Cooling Gel

    For laser medical therapy

       Laser can cause severe pain and discomfort in the skin. A laser cooling gel greatly reduces this discomfort by absorbing, to the minimum levels, the energy of laser beams. It doesn’t affect the effectiveness of the laser therapy and can be used for aesthetic medicine treatments as well.

       The use of a cooling gel during laser treatments is necessary. It serves a lot of purposes, from protecting the skin from overheating to minimizing painful sensations. It also has high resistance to drying, which ensures that the skin is protected all throughout the treatment. Laser cooling gels are used for the following procedures: 

      • Fractional Laser Therapy (CO2)
      • Laser Therapy (IPL, e-LIGHT)
      • Diode Laser Therapy

      Ultrasound Gel a.k.a. Echo Gel

      For ultrasonography and echography

       Ultrasounds don’t hurt but they give patients a gooey, cold and sometimes, messy sensation. That’s due to the ultrasound gel. It is a must for every ultrasound procedure to apply the echo gel on the patient’s skin as sound waves cannot travel very well through the air. Basically, an ultrasound gel is a conductive medium that creates a tight bond between the probe or transducer and the skin. It acts as the coupling agent and reduces static. The more echo gel that is applied, the better. This type of gel is also used in fetal Doppler - a machine that allows doctors and parents to listen to the heartbeat of an unborn child. The chemical composition of ultrasound gel includes propylene glycol, water, and occasionally, a dye (the dye is more for looks and doesn’t affect the effectiveness of the gel). It is usually clear and thick, and a little bit sticky. That way, it doesn’t droop when applied on the skin.                  


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      Ultrasonic gel is among the most common types of medical gels used because it has wide applications in both medical and aesthetic treatments. Primarily, this echo gel plays a critical role in ensuring the passage of sound waves to and from the machine as well as the maximal transmission of energy from one medium to another. It is used for medical diagnostics because it has a high viscosity but does not contain any oily constituent that increases the risk of contamination. Ultrasonic gels are non-toxic, water-soluble, microbiology pure, and transparent in color.

       Ultrasonic gels are specially made for the following:

       Ultrasound diagnostics

      • Obstetrics and gynecology
      • Cardiology (Cardiotocography - CTG)
      • Surgery

      Coupling Agent

      The main purpose of a coupling medium is to facilitate transmission of the ultrasound energy from the machine head to the tissues. Coupling agents can be in the form of water, various oils, creams, and gels. It should be fluid as to fill all the spaces but at the same time, relatively viscous as to stay in place. A good coupling agent has the low level of absorption, attenuation, and disturbance.

       Currently, gel-based coupling agents appear to be preferable to the oils and creams. Water-based media are a good option too, however, they don’t meet all criteria mentioned above, particularly viscosity.

      Cosmetic Gels

       Clear and sterile gels are also inevitable in the field of cosmetics. These are water-soluble polymers that are widely used as thickeners and gelling agents. There are different types of gels used in cosmetic treatments. The first one is the Hyaluronic acid gel. It is used to facilitate better transmission of electrodes between the probes and the skin.

       Another commonly used cosmetic medical gel is collagen. This supports the rejuvenation of the skin to restore its younger and healthier look. It increases skin density and firmness, smoothes the skin, and aids in moisture retention. This gel is used in sonophoresis, electrophoresis, ultrasonic liposuction, and Iontophoresis. Similar gels used for these procedures are elastin protein gel and conductive gel.

      Safe Use of Medical Gels

      Because medical gels are routinely used in varying procedures and treatments, improper handling of these gels can result to contamination. Thus, single use of containers are a requirement for sterile gels. Once a sterile medical gel has been opened, it is no longer sterile. This type of gel must be used with aseptic technique. Reusable bottles may only be used for non-sterile gels. Such bottles with non-sterile gels must never be topped up or refilled when partially empty. For procedures that are done infrequently, using small reusable bottles or single-use containers are recommended.

       Medical gels should be stored in areas where they are protected from dust, moisture, insects and other things that could spur contamination.

      Medical gels are important products used in varying medical procedures, from ultrasonography and echography to laser treatments, and even aesthetic treatments. There are many types of gels used in the medical field, such as conductive gels, echo gels, ultrasonic gels, ultrasound gels, coupling agents, and even cosmetic gels. These substances vary in terms of compounds, consistency, thickness, and formulation. It is important for healthcare providers to use the right type of medical gel for a particular procedure to achieve the best results.



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