What Are the Different Types of Plastic Splints?

Dan Cavallari

When a limb suffers an injury, it must usually be immobilized to prevent further injury to the site. In this case, plastic splints may be used to ensure the limb does not move. Various types of plastic splints exist; some are designed specifically for one area of the body, while others are designed for multipurpose use. In other cases, the plastic itself may vary in thickness, rigidity, shape, and even texture. Most splints made from plastic are quite rigid, though some inflatable models are soft and thin, but very susceptible to damage.

A finger in a plastic splint.
A finger in a plastic splint.

One common type of splint made of plastic is actually often considered more of a brace: the cervical collar, or C-collar, is designed to immobilize the neck after an injury or accident. Such plastic splints are usually padded for additional comfort, though they can be quite uncomfortable to wear because they will restrict all movement of the neck. Emergency medical personnel are most likely to use such plastic splints to help reduce the risk of spinal injuries when transporting patients from an accident site to a medical facility. This type of splint may be used in conjunction with others that are designed to immobilize the head, neck, and shoulders during transport.

A splint can be used to immobilize the leg.
A splint can be used to immobilize the leg.

Sometimes plastic splints are multipurpose; they will feature flat or slightly curved panels with holes drilled into them, making it easy to tie off the splints or otherwise secure them with medical tape or other devices. These splints can be used alone or in pairs. In some cases, the splints may feature a U-shaped design so they can be secured around a limb such as an arm or leg. Using these plastic splints is advantageous because the plastic is quite rigid, lightweight, and resistant to all types of damage. The plastic is also quite easy to clean or sterilize after use.

A splint may be required if a person experiences a bad fall.
A splint may be required if a person experiences a bad fall.

An inflatable splint made from plastic is generally considered to be a temporary solution. Inflatable plastic splints will wrap around a limb, and the user can then inflate the plastic bag to secure the limb in place. These are usable if no other alternatives are present, but they will offer the least amount of stability and the most susceptibility to potential puncture. Inflatable splints are most suitable for less severe injuries. Some inflatable casts are more durable, but they are usually reinforced with a hard plastic outer casing that will protect the inflated plastic from potential puncture.

Plastic splints may be used to reduce the risk of spinal injuries.
Plastic splints may be used to reduce the risk of spinal injuries.
Emergency medical personnel may utilize plastic splints in the field.
Emergency medical personnel may utilize plastic splints in the field.

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