Sunday, September 21, 2014

Watch that Splint

I promise this is an interesting topic...

After the Hip Ankle Foot Orthosis (HAFO) was made for Dewunmi who had severe Hemiplegia caused by Cerebral palsy, his mom was so excited but Dewunmi did not like this extra load and inconvenience. He was cranky all through the fittings. 

"Madam I need you to wear him at least 8 hours daily and we have to be consistent because the more he wears it, the better to prevent gradual joint stiffening."

She replied, "Don’t worry, trust me he will wear it even to sleep."

"Ahh!!! No o! Madam this is not a night splint and it could be very uncomfortable, 8 hours is very ok for his age."

After a month, we noticed sores on Dewunmi’s caudal region, I immediately knew that she had ignored my instructions. The HAFO had caused uneven pressure on the caudal bony prominence which had resulted in the development of the sore.

This is why I decided to write a short post on splinting.

Splints and orthosis are temporary devices in neurology used to correct or ensure proper anatomical positioning and sometimes movement and also prevent joint stiffening and subsequent deformity especially for spastic children. It also helps to reduce risk of injury, improve mobility performance and stabilize the joint.

How do Orthosis or splints work?
They work by applying forces to the body. By encompassing parts of the body and preventing movements, muscles and joints can be stretched. Many muscles cross two joints (for example, the calf muscles cross both the ankle and knee). 

To exert stretching effect, either both joints must be held by the device or activities that stretch the joint (passive and active exercises) not in the device should be encouraged. 

Splints and orthosis can also provide stability to help some children stand and walk. 

This is the bio-mechanical explanation of how the device works. 

Materials used include high temperature thermoplast, neoprene and even lycra garments etc.

The following considerations must be properly adhered especially at first fitting and through out the day:

1. Ensure that the splints are well contoured.

2. Always maintain Anti-deformity position (proper body alignment)

3. Snugly position and tighten straps to allow blood flow or veinous return (not too tight, not too      loose).

4. If the splints are too tight or inappropriately placed, circulation is compromised.

5. If a child cannot monitor the status of the affected area, Parents should be instructed to examine the body part for evidence of muscle strain, swelling, redness or sores between straps or muscles around the region.

6. Allow motion out of the splint at periodic interval (parents should learn some passive exercises to perform at these intervals).

7. Avoid or minimize bony prominence.

Foreign Pre-formed Splints
A lot of parents prefer the foreign splints because of the materials and its aesthetic beauty but they have the challenges of “one-size fits no one”  and as such, still have to be custom-fitted by a really experienced Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist and Orthotist.

Lastly, Orthosis are never an answer in themselves but in many cases they are an extension of the therapist’s arm while away from hands-on active treatment.

The usual trend is this, when a splint, orthosis or an assistive device is made for a child, the parents are usually excited and are consistent within the next few months or weeks, after then, they start faltering, becoming inconsistent with some even totally stopping. 

I understand this because I also see this trend in myself (with abstinence from junk food) but for the device to do what it’s made to do, there has to be consistency and proper adherence to the rules.

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