Splints have been used often throughout history to treat injuries. They usually keep a limb, for example, immobile while an injury is healing. A thermoplastic splint is typically light and can be molded to fit a body part. The plastic is usually shaped by heating it, while when cool it retains that shape if kept on or taken off. One can usually remove a thermoplastic splint to clean it, or to take a bath, for example.
A thermoplastic splint typically has a front and back section, which completely surrounds a hand or arm, or other section of the body. Manufacturers generally need an assessment of the problem and the area the splints are used in to create the best fit. Goals of the treatment often have to be addressed, while skin characteristics such as fragility, wounds, and circulation problems are usually considered. The types of splints that are made of thermoplastic can also be designed to accommodate bones near the skin, the need for sensation, as well as any pain one may be in.
Whatever kind of thermoplastic the splint is made of can also depend on the problem, age of a patient, and the location to be treated. One variety might be suited for a finger or the wrist or elbow, while a more rigid splint is often needed for the leg or large surfaces around the body trunk. A thermoplastic splint is sometimes made with perforated sheets to let the skin breathe. The holes usually allow for perspiration to get out as well; otherwise the skin can be permanently damaged if the splint is worn for a long time.
Materials used to make a thermoplastic splint can be heated with water, steam, or heat guns. Sometimes a special heating plate is used to accomplish the task. Depending on the material or type of splint, the process and required temperatures can vary; the finished product may still need to be adjusted and trimmed to fit or be comfortable to wear.
Sometimes a thermoplastic splint is attached using straps, which are often attached in a separate process. Other splints are fitted over a foam covering that surrounds the part of the body being treated. They typically consist of a rubber layer with thermoplastic on top; one version is designed to be remolded, by applying heat, as an injury heals. It can therefore be re-shaped for different stages of treatment for severe injuries, and when swelling decreases.