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93 Percent of Suspected Pediatric Fractures are Splinted Improperly

Update Date: Oct 10, 2014 02:07 PM EDT
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A new study reported that the majority of splints are placed improperly in suspected pediatric fractures. The researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that these splints, which are done in emergency rooms and urgent care centers, can cause swelling and skin problems.

"Splints are effective for immobilization of fractured extremities in children and adolescents when placed appropriately," said senior author, Joshua M. Abzug, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Unfortunately, many practitioners in emergency departments and urgent care settings incorrectly applied splints, potentially causing injury."

In this study, the researchers examined 227 cases that were treated at community hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers within Maryland. The patients were children and teenagers up to 18-years-old and needed a splint. Splints offer temporary stabilization for a potential fracture until an orthopedic surgeon can assess the situation.

The researchers found that 93 percent of the splints were done incorrectly. In 77 percent of the cases, the elastic bandage used to hold the splint in place was placed directly on the skin, which can case skin irritation. In 59 percent of the cases, the splint did not stabilize the joint correctly and in 52 percent of the cases, the splint was not the correct length.

Overall, about 40 percent of the patients experienced skin and soft tissue complications. The team concluded that educating hospital staff on how to place a splint correctly is important.

"As a result of our findings, we believe that healthcare professionals may need more extensive education and training on proper splinting techniques," said Dr. Abzug reported in the press release.

He added, "The real intent of this study is to avoid any major complications that could occur from an improperly placed splint. If there is any question, get in to see an orthopedist as quickly as possible. Any child complaining of pain away from the point of the fracture or experiencing swelling may have an improperly placed splint."

The study was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego, CA.

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