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A History of Splinting: To Understand the Present, View the Past

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This Hand Research article was written by Elaine Ewing Fess, MS, OTR, FAOTA, CHT (Zionsville, Indiana) and published at JOURNAL OF HAND THERAPY. 2002;15:97–132

The article discusses the use of sophisticated splints for treating upper extremity problems. These include a variety of splints designed to support paralyzed arms, provide shoulder movement, prevent rotation, assist with elbow and wrist flexion, and address specific conditions like Dupuytren’s disease. The article also explores the historical development of splinting techniques and the role they played in orthopedic care. Additionally, it highlights the contributions of surgeons like Hugh Owen Thomas and Alessandro Codivilla in advancing the field of splinting and rehabilitation. The use of plaster of Paris as a popular immobilization medium for fractures is also mentioned. Enjoy reading the full story!

Discover the Fascinating History of Splints and Fixators Throughout history, various civilizations have utilized splints and fixators to address physical discomfort and aid in the immobilization of injured body parts.
In ancient Egypt, splints made from leaves, reeds, bamboo, and bark padded with linen were used as early as ancient times to treat fractures. Even mummified remains have been found wearing splints, highlighting their importance.
Hippocrates, the renowned Greek physician, employed splints, compresses, and bandaging techniques to immobilize fractures. In his time, splints were gutter-shaped split stalks of large plants, wrapped in wool or linen, worn separately.
As advancements continued, ancient Rome witnessed the introduction of metal strips in splints for better stabilization.
During the medieval period, materials such as palm-branch ribs and cane halves were used for splinting, accompanied by plaster-like substances.
With the introduction of gunpowder in combat, armor makers turned to brace fabrication. Metal splints, known as “appliances for crooked arms,” were used to treat joint contractures.
The first one-page splint manual, assembled by surgeon Hieronymus Fabricius in 1592, showcased illustrated armor-based splints for treating contractures throughout the body. Mechanics and brace fabrication evolved in France and England from the 1750s to the 1850s.
Custom braces and splints were designed by surgeons collaborating closely with their preferred appliance makers.
Plaster of Paris, initially introduced in Persia, gained acceptance in Europe and America in the mid-1800s as a suitable immobilization material.
The relationship between surgeons and appliance makers became competitive, with the two parties diverging into independent factions. Both disciplines attracted talented individuals dedicated to improving brace fabrication techniques.
It’s truly remarkable to witness the evolution of splints and fixators throughout history as they have played a vital role in supporting the healing process.
To learn more about this captivating journey, please follow the link below to read the complete article.
We hope you find this exploration into the history of splints and fixators fascinating.
Stay tuned for more educational content and information about our selection of splints at our store.