What are the different types of splint?

The objective of splinting is to prevent motion in broken bone ends. Splinting is an effective first aid treatment for fractures.

The nerves that cause the most pain in a fractured extremity lie in the membrane surrounding the bone. The broken bone ends irritate these nerves, causing a very deep and distressing type of pain. Splinting not only decreases pain, but also eliminates further damage to muscles, nerves, and blood vessels by preventing further movement of the broken bone ends.

Let’s look closer at the different types of splints available to first aiders and first responders.

Rigid Splints.

This type of splint can be made from many different materials and includes all cardboard, hard plastic, metal, or wooden types of splints. The type of splint that is made rigid by evacuating air from a moldable splint (vacuum splint) is also classified as a rigid splint. Rigid splints should be padded well and should always extend one joint above and below the fracture.

Soft Splints

This type of splint includes air splints, pillows, and sling and swathe-type splints. Air splints are good for fractures of the lower arm and lower leg. Air splints have the advantage of compression, which helps to slow bleeding, but they have the disadvantage of increasing pressure as the temperature rises or the altitude increases. They should not be put on angulated fractures since they will automatically apply straightening pressure.

Other major disadvantages of air splints include the fact that the extremity pulses cannot be monitored while the splint is in place, and the splints also often stick to the skin and are painful to remove.

Pillows make good splints for injuries to the ankle or foot. They are also helpful, along with a sling and a swathe, to stabilize a dislocated shoulder.

Slings and swathes are excellent for injuries to the clavicle, shoulder, upper arm, elbow, and sometimes the forearm. They utilize the chest wall as a solid foundation and splint the arm against the chest wall. Some shoulder injuries cannot be brought close to the chest wall without significant force being applied. In these instances, pillows are used to bridge the gap between the chest wall and the upper arm.

An example of a sling for upper limb injuries

Traction Splints

This device is designed for fractures of the femur. It holds the fracture immobile by the application of a steady pull on the ankle while applying counter traction to the ischium and the groin. This steady traction overcomes the tendency of the very strong thigh muscles to spasm.

There are many designs and types of splints available to apply traction to the lower extremity, but each must be carefully padded and applied with care to prevent excessive pressure on the soft tissues around thee pelvis.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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