A sugar-tong splint is a medical device used to stabilize and support a fractured limb or a site where orthopedic surgery has been performed. The name of this style of splint is a reference to the appearance; the sugar-tong splint grasps the involved area somewhat like a pair of tongs. This allows for support and immobilization of the area without limiting the ability to swell, reducing the risk of complications associated with wearing a splint. Medical supply catalogs carry sugar-tong splints, along with other splint designs.
Splinting performs a number of functions. One is the immediate relief of pain and tension, through immobilizing and supporting the injury. Emergency splinting may be performed on patients before transport so that broken limbs will be less painful, for example. After a surgery or bone-setting procedure, the splint holds the injured area still during healing to limit pain, ensure even healing, and support the injured area for increased patient comfort.
The sugar-tong splint is made from a hard material that wraps partway around a limb. Splints are usually flexible so that they can be molded into specific shapes. They are typically applied over a stocking and padding, and a cast may be worn over the splint to further fix it in place. While wearing a sugar-tong splint, it may be necessary to support the injured limb with a sling to avoid straining the cast and splint.
Forearm fractures are commonly treated with a sugar-tong splint. The design of the splint allows the tissue of the arm to swell as it copes with inflammation. Fully enclosing the area could expose the patient to the risk of compartment syndrome and other complications, as swelling tissue would have no room to expand. Such splints can also be used on certain types of ankle injuries and other injuries as indicated.
When a sugar-tong splint is fitted, analgesia may be offered so that the patient will be comfortable during the splinting and casting process. It is important to fit the splint with care, paying attention to potential chafing and other problems. If a patient experiences unusual levels of pain or notices a lot of heat while the cast is setting, a care provider should be alerted. Sometimes, patients can develop thermal burns from curing cast plaster, and if such burns are not identified and treated, they can become inflamed and infected underneath the cast.