Posterior Elbow Splinting

Updated: Nov 01, 2017
  • Author: Lynne McCullough, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Splints are generally applied to decrease movement to provide support and comfort through stabilization of an injury. In the emergency department (ED), splints are primarily used to stabilize nonemergency injuries to bones until the patient can be evaluated by a consultant such as an orthopedic surgeon, at which time definitive casting can be performed. [1, 2]  Splints can also serve as initial immobilization in the preoperative period or can immobilize an injury for primary healing.

All patients with injuries that are splinted should be referred for evaluation by a consultant in a timely fashion (within 2-3 days). [3, 4]

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Indications

A posterior elbow splint is primarily used to stabilize the following injuries:

  • Fractures or soft-tissue injuries of the elbow [5, 6, 7]
  • Fractures or soft-tissue injuries of the proximal radius or ulna that require immobilization of the wrist and elbow
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Contraindications

Although no true contraindications exist for the placement of a splint, certain injuries require immediate evaluation or intervention by a consultant (eg, orthopedic surgeon, hand surgeon, plastic surgeon) and, as such, may not necessitate splinting. Such injuries include the following:

  • Complicated fractures
  • Open fractures
  • Injuries with associated neurovascular compromise
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