How we use splints to treat burns

After a burn or a skin graft, your skin needs support to help it heal as quickly and comfortably as possible. We often use splints to hold your skin in the best position for healing, so you have the greatest chance at a smooth recovery.

A splint for burns is something you wear that provides rigid support to parts of your body. You might wear them during certain activities or all day. We often use splints to treat burns, especially after skin grafts. They can protect fragile skin, reduce swelling and prevent complications from burns.

The expert burn specialists at the Region Hospital Burn Center will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan for your burn care. If your plan includes splints, we’ll talk with you about when you need to wear it, and how long you need to keep it on, and answer any questions you have.

How splints are used to treat burns

Burn splints are used along with other treatment options to help joints that have been burned heal and regain range of motion. We might use prefabricated splints that are adjusted to fit you, or splints made of a low-temperature thermoplastic that are custom made to fit your body.

Splints and orthotics are used to hold parts of your body in the best position to:

  • Protect the skin graft and keep it still while it is healing.
  • Prevent the skin from shrinking and becoming contracted (tight) as it heals.
  • Restore range of motion of a joint by stretching the skin.
  • Soften scar tissue by applying total contact as in a facial or neck orthosis.

Types of splints for burns

There are several types of splints we may use to treat your burns.

Finger extension splints for burns

The purpose of finger extension splints is to support a finger joint so that it heals without contracting. This helps prevent deformities. How long and when you need to wear finger extension splints varies depending on your burn and your condition. It’s common to wear finger extension splints at night while resting and take them off during the day while exercising or doing other activities.

Resting hand splint for burns

Resting hand splints are used to support the hand and wrist joints so that they heal without losing range of motion. While burns heal, the skin can shrink which may cause contractures and deformities.

These splints are worn while you’re resting and hold your hand in a comfortable position to reduce swelling and pain. How long and when you need to wear a resting hand splint varies from person to person. A common schedule would be to wear it at night while sleeping and take it off during the day for exercise and activity.

Interdigital (between fingers) inserts for burns

Interdigital splints are inserts that you wear in the web spaces between your fingers and thumb. They’re used to prevent the skin from shrinking as it heals and to restore range of motion by stretching the skin. How long and when you wear them varies, but patients usually wear them full-time under compression gloves.

Clavicle strap for burns

A clavicle strap is one of the most common slings used. This strap goes over the shoulders and often is used to help hold an airplane splint (axillary splint) in place.

A clavicle strap can prevent the skin around your arm and clavicle from shrinking while you recover. It also helps maintain your range of motion by keeping your skin loose and healthy. The length of time you’ll wear the clavicle strap varies depending on your specific burn injuries. You might wear it full-time or part-time.

Axillary or airplane splint for burns

An airplane splint, sometimes called an axillary splint, is used for burns on the shoulders or underarms (axilla). It’s called an airplane splint because it holds your arm out to the side, like an airplane wing.

These splints are used to prevent the skin from shrinking as it heals and to restore motion of the shoulder by stretching the skin. How long and when you wear it varies, you might wear it part-time or full-time.

Mouth splints for burns

Mouth splints are worn to keep the skin around the mouth from shrinking while healing from a burn injury. If the skin around your mouth shrinks, you can develop a condition called microstomia. Microstomia makes it difficult to open your mouth, eat, speak clearly, brush your teeth and complete dental work.

There are a variety of mouth splints available, some of them are prefabricated and some are custom made to each patient. Most people wear mouth splints on a part-time schedule 2-4 times a day.

Ankle and foot orthoses

Many ankle and foot orthoses are worn like a boot. They’re used to maintain your range of motion in the ankle if you’re on bedrest. In most cases, you’ll wear a foot or ankle orthosis while in bed or in a chair. You may have an on-and-off wearing schedule throughout the day.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)