Splint Fabrication: Types & Functions

Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

Splint fabrication is used for many different types of conditions and is helpful in occupational health. This lesson will discuss the types and functions of splint fabrication.

Sports Injury

Ralph is a twenty-year-old man who has fractured his wrist after falling while playing basketball. He had surgery and is now on his third post-operative day. The doctor decides to place a splint on Ralph to protect his wrist during the healing process. An occupational therapist will also begin working with Ralph on range of motion exercises to begin strengthening his wrist while it heals. The doctor begins to explain what type of splint fabrication Ralph will have.

Types of Splint Fabrication

Splint fabrication is the process of applying a splint to an injured area on the body. They can provide minimal, moderate, or maximum resistance depending on the type of injury. Some splints are constructed using Plaster of Paris, plaster, fiberglass, padding, and ace wraps. Other splints are made out of metal, cloth, plastic, or leather as well. The doctor explains to Ralph that there are several types of splint fabrication. These consist of a custom fabricated, prefabricated, and custom fitted splint.

  1. A custom fabricated splint is a splint that is individualized for each patient. Castings, measurements, tracings, and radiographic images of the injured area are used to create a specialized splint. The splint is created by the therapist by molding, drilling, sewing, or bending the splint material before fitting and applying it to the patient.
  2. A prefabricated splint is one that is used as made by a manufacturer. The splint is not individualized for the patient. Minimal adjustments can be made to fit the splint and it does not require special services from occupational therapy for fitting the splint.
  3. A custom fitted splint is a type of prefabricated splint that does require adjustments made by the occupational therapist. The therapist bends, cuts, or molds the splint and may or may not have to use heat to manipulate the splint.

A splint used to support the wrist during movement
A splint used to support the wrist during movement

Since Ralph is young and athletic, the doctor and therapist decide that a custom fabricated splint will work best. A speedy recovery is anticipated so the splint needs to fit well and serve the needs of Ralph during daily activities. Ralph is impressed once the therapist fits the splint to his wrist. Ralph askes the therapist how his and other splints function.

Functions of Fabricated Splints

There are many reasons for the use of fabricated splints. In Ralph's case, the splint is being used to stabilize his injured wrist while also controlling his range of motion during rehabilitation. Splints also support weakened muscles, reduce inflammation, control pain, influence scar formation, and support the structure of the bone, tendon, or joint. Conditions that may warrant a fabricated splint include:

  • Skin lacerations that cross over joints
  • Acute arthritis and gout
  • Fractures and sprains
  • Puncture wounds or bites around the hands, feet, and joints
  • Severe abrasions and contusions
  • Lacerated tendons
  • Reduced joint dislocations
  • Tenosynovitis (inflammation and swelling of a joint)
  • Joint tightness
  • Muscle-tendon joint stability
  • Nerve injuries
  • Congenital deformities
  • Contracture release

A fracture may require a splint after surgery
A fracture may require a splint after surgery

Ralph is using his custom fabricated splint after his wrist fracture. The splint will protect and support his wrist while he is healing and strengthening his muscles. Splints can be worn consistently during the beginning phases of healing; only removing them to clean them and or to complete minimal daily activities that do not require heavy lifting or extreme range of motion changes.

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