What are ankle splints?
Splints are primarily used to stabilize injuries to bones until the patient can be evaluated by a consultant, such as an orthopedic surgeon. These are also used to achieve immobilization for primary healing or in the preoperative period. All patients with injuries that are splinted should be referred for an evaluation by a consultant within two to three days.
Ankle splints are applied to minimize movement and provide support and comfort by stabilizing an injury at the ankle joint. Immobilizing the joint reduces pain and helps the injury heal faster.
When are ankle splints used?
An ankle splint is primarily used for:
How is ankle splinting done?
There are various types of ankle splints, made from various materials. Generally, a healthcare professional applies ankle splints using different techniques.
Ankle splinting is usually done without the use of anesthesia. In case of significant pain during joint manipulation or reduction of fracture, anesthesia and pain killers would be required.
During the ankle splinting
The injured limb is completely exposed. A stockinette extends from the toes to the lower calf. Soft padding is applied over the stockinette. The padding should extend two to three cm beyond the overlying plaster on both ends. Plaster of Paris (POP) is applied over the padding. A bandage wrap is applied over the wet plaster. The foot and ankle remain immobile until the splint is dry. The patient may feel some warmth released from the plaster as it dries.
In the case of a simple sprain, the doctor may advise a simple brace with Velcro clips or a bandage wrap to be worn for two to six weeks to immobilize the joint.
After the procedure
It is advised to rest, elevate and ice the injured limb. If the patient experiences weakness, numbness, color change (pale or bluish), increasing pressure or pain, or spreading redness, it is advised to remove the splint and visit the emergency department right away.
The splint must be kept clean and dry. Patients can be tempted to use sticks, pens or hangers to scratch an itch inside the splint. Sticking objects into the splint to scratch an itch can wrinkle the padding and lead to pressure injuries or cause cuts in the skin, which lead to infections. The splint is usually rechecked in 48 hours by the doctor.
What are the complications of ankle splints?
- Thermal burns may occur due to the warmth as the plaster dries
- Pressure sores
- Contact dermatitis
- Neurovascular compromise (damage to nerves and blood vessels)
- Decreased range of motion from immobilization (aftercare often requires physical therapy)
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