What is a sugar-tong forearm splint?
The main purpose of sugar-tong splinting is to immobilize the joints and bones above and below the fracture site.
A sugar-tong forearm splint is a long U-shaped splint that immobilizes the injured forearm or wrist and prevents forearm rotation and wrist motion. They heal the fractured bones by keeping the broken ends together and in alignment. A sugar-tong splint may align the broken bone or protect the patient’s forearm or wrist after the surgery.
Why is a sugar-tong splint used?
Sugar-tong splints are applied to treat the following conditions:
- Wrist fracture
- Mid lower arm fractures
- Lower arm fractures
- Control of pain
- After surgery protection of the forearm or wrist
What is the purpose of sugar-tong splinting?
The main purpose of sugar-tong splinting is to immobilize the joints and bones above and below the fracture site. This is to prevent bone edges from moving and damaging other muscles, vessels, or nerves and further complications. Splinting will only be effective when the adjacent joints and bones remain immobilized.
When should be sugar-tong splint application avoided?
Sugar-tong splint application should be avoided in the following conditions:
- Open fracture (the broken bone that tears the skin)
- Impending compartment syndrome (a potentially life-threatening condition in which the pressure builds up in the arms)
- Neurovascular compromise (malunion of the nerves and blood vessels)
- Active or developing reflex sympathetic dystrophy (chronic arm pain caused due to injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack)
How is a sugar-tong splint applied?
The traditional sugar-tong splint utilizes the help of an assistant. First, the physician applies a soft loosely knitted stretch fabric called stockinette over the area. Next, the physician applies two to three layers of cotton padding as a protective layer to the skin. Extra layers of padding are applied to the bony area. The splinting material can be either strips or rolls. The physician dips the splinting material in water and places it over the padding. Next, the physician applies an elastic bandage over the splint. While still wet, the physician uses palms to mold the splint to the desired shape. Once hardened, the physician checks the pulse.
The caregiver usually applies a splint to a fresh injury. Once the swelling subsides, the caregiver replaces the splint with a cast.
What to expect after the application of sugar-tong splint?
- Swelling may cause pressure in the splint for the first 48-72 hours.
- You need to elevate your swollen arm for the first 24-72 hours.
- Gentle movements of the swollen arm prevent stiffness.
- You need to apply ice to the splints.
- You need to consult your physician if you experience any of these symptoms around the splints:
- Increased pain
- Numbness or tingling in your hand
- Burning and stinging
- Excessive swelling below the splint
How long does a sugar-tong splint stay on?
A splint usually stays on for several days to weeks. A splint is usually preferred in case of swelling. Once the swelling resolves, the doctor will remove the splint and apply a cast. Splints need to be adjusted in the first few days if the injury is swollen.
What else do I need to know about sugar-tong splints?
You need to take good care of the splints for proper healing. You should also remember to
- Never insert objects inside the splint. They can stick inside or break off the skin.
- Not allow dirt or sand to get inside the splint.
- Not apply powder or deodorant inside a splint.
- Always keep the splint dry and in place.