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What Is a Posterior Elbow Splint?

What is a splint?

A splint is a rigid device used to stabilize broken bones or dislocated joints. Often, a splint is temporarily applied in an emergency as a stopgap measure until a doctor can set the bone properly.

A splint is a type of a medical tool made of wood or rigid material. It is used to immobilize a fractured or dislocated bone. A splint usually helps to maintain any part of the body in a fixed position. The most common use of splints is in emergency settings to keep a broken bone in position until it heals.

What is an elbow dislocation?

An elbow joint injury frequently occurs during sporting activities. A significant force is required to disrupt the joint because the elbow joint’s stable, bony structure. Therefore, an associated fracture often occurs along with the elbow dislocation, thus classifying the dislocation as complex.

The elbow joint is made up of three main bones:

  • Humerus (bone of the upper arm)
  • Radius (bone on the thumb side of the forearm)
  • Ulna (It lies medially and parallel to the radius)
    • The Olecranon process is bony prominence at the top of the ulna that forms the “point” of the elbow.

There are several different ligaments, tendons and muscles that help keep these bones in their normal positions while a person moves this joint around. In most cases, the ulna is dislocated and goes behind the humerus.

What is a posterior elbow splint?

A posterior elbow splint is a type of splinting procedure used to stabilize the following injuries:

  • Fractures or soft tissue injuries of the elbow
  • Fractures or soft tissue injuries near the radius or ulna that require immobilization of the wrist and elbow

When can a posterior elbow splint not be used?

Certain injuries require immediate evaluation or intervention by a consultant (e.g., orthopedic surgeon, hand surgeon and plastic surgeon), and splinting alone cannot be the treatment. Such injuries are as follows:

  • Complicated fractures
  • Open fractures
  • Injuries associated with nerves and blood vessels

How is a posterior elbow splint done?

Splinting is usually tolerated without the use of anesthesia. However, if significant manipulation of the injury is required during the splinting process, anesthetic techniques may be used.

  • The displaced or fractured bone is immobilized by a posterior splint at 45-90° of elbow flexion, and the wrist is slightly extended at 10-20°.
  • Usually, a posterior elbow splint is made of plaster or fiberglass with sufficient padding or cotton.
  • A splint is cut out into a 3- or 5-inch length, necessary to immobilize the affected part (usually radius and ulna).
  • A splint may be bisected lengthwise from the fingertips to the shoulder.
  • The splint is secured in place using a sling that makes it look like an “L” shape.
  • This splint would be in place for three days to three weeks. 
  • Throughout the immobilization phase, wrist and shoulder functions should be maintained through a range of motion and strengthening exercises.

What are the complications of a posterior elbow splint?

Complications of a radial gutter splint are as follows:

  • Excess heat during splinting may cause skin burns
  • Pressure sores
  • Skin infection
  • Swelling and pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Too tight a splint may exert pressure on adjoining nerves.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/22/2020


Posterior Elbow Splinting Technique

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