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What Is a Coaptation Splint?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A coaptation splint stabilizes the end of a fracture so it cannot move while it heals. This type of orthopedic accessory has a U shape which can be bent to conform with the patient’s body and may be used in combination with a longer splint along the length of the fracture. It is designed for temporary management of bone injuries and may be integrated into a larger cast or replaced as the patient’s treatment progresses.

In emergency departments, medical providers may use a coaptation splint to quickly stabilize a fracture to prevent further injuries. This can also be necessary when a patient will clearly need surgery but it cannot occur immediately. Casting the fracture would be unwise because the cast would need to be removed for surgery, and it could cause problems with the bone positioning. A coaptation splint can be applied and supported with bandages to keep the fracture steady until the patient receives further treatment.

Surgeons can also use this type of splint in some cases. Once they have treated a fracture with pins and other measures, they may apply a coaptation splint to keep it still. It can be worn for several days or weeks and may later be replaced with a different fracture stabilization option if the surgeon feels it is necessary. This provides time to make alterations and monitor healing with an easily removed and adjusted splint as the patient heals.

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Injuries to the humerus are commonly treated with this kind of stabilizing device. The long bone in the upper arm can be held in place with a coaptation splint while the patient starts to recover. Similar designs can also be used for the fingers, where a stirrup-shaped splint can hold a finger still and be more comfortable to wear than other options. One advantage to this approach is that the curved shape holds the base of the bone and hugs the fracture, making it less prone to shifting than with a flat splint.

While wearing a coaptation splint, a patient may need to be careful. Directions from a doctor may include recommendations to keep the site clean and dry, and to avoid putting the fractured limb in positions where it might be jarred. People who notice signs like sharp pain, swelling, redness, or strong odors can report them to determine if they are signs of complications like infections. These should be treated promptly to prevent further problems at the fracture site.

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