What is a short arm splint?

Short Arm Splint
Short arm splints are used for several different types of injuries include fractures to the bone close to the wrist and others.

Short arm splints are short splints that immobilize joints of the hand and wrist or to protect bony and soft tissues in the forearm (between the elbow and wrist). They also extend between the thumb and pointer finger. They heal the fractured bones by keeping the broken ends together and in alignment.

The different types of short arm splints used are as follows:

  • Ulnar gutter splints: This type of splint is useful for fractures and severe sprains to the bones of the ring and small fingers. The ulnar gutter splint extends from the upper part of the forearm to the last joint of the fractured finger.
  • Radial gutter splints: This type of splint is useful for fractures and sprains to the bones of the middle and pointer fingers.
  • Thumb spica splint: This type of splint is useful for thumb fractures, dislocations, and sprains. It is also useful for fractures to the scaphoid (small bone in the wrist).
  • Volar/dorsal splints: Splints extend from the middle of the forearm to the distal crease (crease near the top of the palm). These are useful for fractures to the bones of the wrist and index, middle and ring fingers.
  • Sugar-tong splints: This type of splint is useful for fractures of the forearm and wrist.

When is a short arm splint used?

Short arm splints are used for several different types of injuries:

  • Fractures to the bone close to the wrist
  • Fractures to bones in the wrist
  • Control of pain and swelling
  • After the surgery protection of the forearm or wrist
  • Fracture to the bones of the fingers
  • Fracture to the scaphoid (a small round bone in the thumb side of the wrist)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: A condition characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand due to a pinched nerve in the wrist.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sprains and strains of the wrist and hand

What is the difference between a short arm splint and long arm splint?

Long arm splints start from the humerus (a bone in the upper arm) and extend down the arm to the base of the fingers. They are mainly used to heal injuries of the upper arm, particularly of the elbow.

How is a short arm splint applied?

The common procedure for applying all types of splints is as follows:

  • First, the physician applies a soft loosely knitted stretch fabric called stockinette.
  • Next, the physician applies two to three layers of cotton padding as a protective layer to the skin. Extra layers of padding are applied to the bony area.
  • A splinting material can be either strips or rolls. The physician dips the splinting material in water and places it over the padding.
  • Lastly, the physician applies an elastic bandage over the splint.
  • While still wet, the physician uses palms to mold the splint to the desired shape. Once hardened, the physician checks the pulse.

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What to expect after the application of a short arm splint?

  • Swelling may exert pressure in the splint for the first 48-72 hours.
  • You need to elevate your swollen arm for the first 24-72 hours.
  • Gentle movements of the swollen arm prevent stiffness.
  • Apply ice to the splints.
  • Consult your physician if you experience any of these symptoms around the splints:
    • Increased pain
    • Numbness or tingliness in your hand
    • Burning and stinging
    • Excessive swelling below the splint

How long does a short arm splint stay on?

A splint usually stays on for several days to weeks. A splint is usually preferred in case of swelling. Once the swelling resolves, the doctor will remove the splint and apply a cast. Splints need to be adjusted in the first few days if the injury is swollen.

What else do I need to know about short arm splints?

You need to take good care of the splints for proper healing. You should also remember to:

  • never insert objects inside the splint. They can stick inside or break off the skin.
  • not allow dirt or sand to get inside the splint.
  • not apply powder or deodorant inside a splint.
  • always keep the splint dry and in place.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/24/2020
References
References:

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1997864-technique#c2

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/care-of-casts-and-splints/

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0101/p23.html
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