When a limb, joint, or part of the body needs to be immobilized to prevent injury or to help promote healing, metal splints are often used. The metal used to make a splint can vary, though aluminum is the most common because it is lightweight and resistant to corrosion. Metal splints can be used for a wide variety of purposes, and some are designed specifically for one application only while others are more adjustable to accommodate many different types of injuries. Some splints feature thin, flexible aluminum that can be contoured to a limb or joint.
Such splints are often padded on either side of the aluminum for the safety and comfort of the patient. The aluminum in these metal splints is flexible enough that the splinting device can be bent to the contours of the limb while still providing plenty of support once the splint is secured in place. For added security, it is sometimes possible to wrap these metal splints around a joint or limb several times, thereby stacking the aluminum and making a thicker stabilizer. The aluminum tends to be quite lightweight, which means such bendable splints are ideal for packing along in a first aid kit or backpack.
Other metal splints are more rigid and are not meant to allow for any movement of a limb or joint. A rigid elbow joint, for example, is often L-shaped and unbendable. The patient will place his or her arm into the crook of the L, and the brace will usually be taped in place. Sometimes the splint will feature hook and loop straps instead, thereby eliminating the need for taping. The inside of the splint will usually feature padding for additional comfort, though splints used in emergency situations may not feature such padding.
Other types of metal splints include finger splints, knee splints, foot splints, and other specially designed devices intended for use on one specific part of the body. Some types of braces will also feature metal rods, stabilizers, or inserts that will prevent lateral movement of a joint. Some knee braces, for example, will feature hinged frames that allow normal, front to back movement of the knee, but prevent side to side movement. This design is useful for patients who are recovering from knee injuries or surgeries; the affected area can begin to heal and the patient can begin to restore mobility without risking injury from lateral movements.