Thermoplastic splinting material is used to create low temperature splints that protect and support fracture and sprain injuries. This material is lighter than traditional plaster casting and easier to remove and clean. It’s generally used for injuries that require a longer healing time.
Unlike most other splints and casts, thermoplastic material is activated with low heat and is placed directly on patients during the splint molding process. This allows for the material to be molded to fit each individual patient to his/her exact body. In choosing the right splinting material, one has to consider 4 factors: perforation, cut, coating and stiffness.
Thermoplastic splinting material comes in varying levels of perforation (holes). Highly perforated materials allow for greater ventilation. Extra-perforated materials are more lightweight, and therefore more comfortable. The higher perforated materials are great choices for finger and hand-based splints. Materials with little to no perforation are beneficial in providing maximum stability for an injury that needs a lot of support.
The thickness of splinting material usually corresponds with its degree of perforation. A thin material may be around 1.6mm. It provides lightweight support, and will generally have great perforation. Thicker materials may range from 3.2mm to 4.0mm. These are more rigid and firm, and generally correlate to low perforation.
Thermoplastic material can be purchased either as a sheet, strips, or a precut option. The sheets are beneficial for physical therapists who are trained and comfortable in creating their own splints for patients through molding. Sheets offer the most custom and molded fit. The sheets are also better for larger areas of the body, such as the entire forearm.
Strips are best for smaller areas of the body such as the wrist or fingers. Strips come in smaller cuts than the sheets, resulting in physicians wasting less material.
Precuts are already semi-molded into a variety of anatomical shapes for therapists to choose for their clients. The precut design avoids wasting material. This option is best for physical therapists who may not feel comfortable creating their own mold or if a patient does not need a custom fit.
There are often options for non-coated, “sticky,” verses coated, “non-stick,” material. The non-coated material allows for the splint to adhere to itself, as well as to additional materials such as wire or velcro. This stickiness can aid in the splint creation process. If a patient needs additional attachments, non-coated material is the best option.
The coated “non-stick” materials have a special coating that prevents the splint from adhering to itself or other objects when it is unwanted. This coating will prevent the material from sticking to bandages or cotton lining. When heated this material will temporarily bond. Permanent bonding is possible when the coating is removed and the material is exposed to dry heat. Coated material is best for easy adjustments during the molding process. The coating can be scraped off using sandpaper or a scissor and the product can then be stuck to other material.
Thermoplastic splinting material can also come in soft “high-stretch” and stiff “low-stretch” versions. The soft version has less resistance to stretch, allowing it to easily stretch and drape. It’s great for small splints, like finger, thumb and wrist splints. The stiff version has a higher resistance to stretch. It offers support and strength for the creation of larger splints.
Two great options for thermoplastic splinting material are Orfit® and Manosplint®. Both offer a large selection in materials, all varying in levels of perforation, cuts, coating and stiffness. Use this guide to help choose the right splinting material for your patients.
To learn more about our selection of splinting materials, contact us today.