An abduction splint stabilizes a joint to allow it to heal. Splinting may be necessary after surgery or to help patients with congenital conditions like hip dysplasia. Muscle spasticity, in some cases, can also be treated with an abduction splint. These orthotic devices are commonly used on the hips and thumbs, although other joints can be stabilized and immobilized with an abduction splint as well.
Also known as a brace, this piece of medical equipment needs to be custom fitted to the patient to make sure it will be comfortable and properly adjusted. In a fitting session, a splint of the right size can be strapped on and carefully adjusted, in consultation with the physician supervising the case. The equipment will abduct the joint involved, moving it out and away from the body in an extension. It also stabilizes the joint so it can only move through a limited range of motion as it heals.
Depending on the case, a patient may need to wear an abduction splint up to 23 hours a day. When it is removed for hygiene, the patient can check the skin around the splint for signs of irritation and chafing, and can also remove and clean the liners. Interchangeable liners are available so the patient doesn’t have to wait for soiled liners to be cleaned before putting the splint back on. As healing progresses, the physician may recommend further adjustments to increase comfort levels.
Hip replacement surgery is a common reason to wear an abduction splint. After surgery, the hip can be fragile and unstable. Supporting it and holding it as immobile as possible with a splint gives it a chance to heal, and the patient can gradually reduce splinting time over time and start physical therapy to rebuild strength in the joint. Splints may also be recommended for patients with unstable joints prone to dislocation, or for children with joint dysplasia. The immobilization can hold the joint in place while it grows with the goal of straightening and strengthening it.
Wearing an abduction splint can be uncomfortable. Range of motion is limited and patients may have trouble walking, sitting fully upright, and getting off low chairs and beds. Some adjustments may need to be made at home and in the workplace to accommodate the splint while the patient heals, such as elevating a bed to make sure the patient can get out safely. People who notice redness, tenderness, or skin changes around the splint should bring these up with a medical professional, as they may be a sign of infection or irritation and could require treatment.