The skeletal system provides framework for the body and ensures proper body movement. It is composed of bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and other supporting structures. When the bone is broken, some substitute must be provided to avoid further injury. Splinting is a process of immobilizing and supporting fractured or dislocated bone. A splint refers to any item used to immobilize the broken or dislocated bone. It can either be made of special materials, such as the ones used by EMTs, or made of available materials, especially in first aid situations. Learn the right way by attending workplace approved Standard first aid training programs.
The main purpose of splinting is to immobilize the fractured bone and the joint nearest to it. If it is the joint that is fractured or dislocated, the joint and the bones attached to it must be immobilized. Aside from immobilizing the injured bones, splinting also helps reduce or prevent the severity of complications that are normally caused by dislocations and fractures. Some complications arising from fractures include:
- Damage to soft tissues – When a bone is fractured or dislocated, the surrounding soft tissues are often injured by the ends of the bones. If the extremity is not immobilized, it will aggravate the damage to soft tissues. Surrounding nerves, blood vessels, and muscles can be damaged beyond repair.
- Pain – Once the continuity of the bone is damaged, the surrounding nerve endings can be damaged as well. The unrestricted movement of the bone ends and fragments can cause added pain. Meanwhile, in case of dislocations, immobilizing the joint and bones can help prevent placing additional pressure on the blood vessels, nerves, and other sensitive tissues.
- Bleeding – Bone ends and fragments continue to cause damage to blood vessels if not immobilized.
- Possibility of aggravating into an open fracture – Movement of the bone ends can force the bone out of the skin, resulting in open fracture.
- Restricted blood flow – The ends of fractured bones, dislocated bones and other bone fragments can put undue pressure on blood vessels, shutting off or reducing blood flow.
Splints are often categorized into three: rigid splints, soft splints and traction splints.
- Rigid splints are made of stiff materials that allow very little flexibility. When applied, it effectively immobilizes the bones and joint in the injured extremity. Emergency medical services often use commercial rigid splints made of wood, aluminum, cardboard, wire, etc. These splints can range from short to long, padded board splints.
- Soft splints can be made of air-inflatable materials or soft materials such as blankets, towels, pillows, and dressings. This is not as effective as the latter but can help immobilize the injured extremity. This type of splint is preferred for fractures of the foot.
- Traction splints use pilling force to stabilize the broken bones. This is most commonly used in fractures involving large bones such as the thigh.
When providing first aid, do not expect to have commercial splints on hand. Instead, you have to be ready to use materials that are available at the scene of accident. You can use plywood, pieces of lumber, rolled newspapers, cardboard, broom, umbrella, and other rigid or soft materials that you can find. You can ask the help of bystanders to look for possible splints. CPR training is indeed important.