Disposable splint improves treatment of broken limbs

A new device could allow paramedics to more easily set broken limbs using a disposable splint that cuts the risk of infection.

The ResQSplint, developed by a team of UK doctors and designers, begins as a flexible support but automatically hardens once put in place and activated, immobilising the limb until the patient reaches hospital.

Unlike rigid splints, the new product can be wrapped around broken limbs without having to straighten them out, causing pain and potentially more damage.

It is also smaller and lighter than conventional splints, making it easier to carry and store in ambulances where there is limited space. And because it is disposable, there is a much lower chance of bacteria being passed from patient to patient.

The need for a new type of splint was identified by orthopaedic surgeon Charles Stacey, who founded the company Flexycast and worked with Cambridge Design Partnership (CDP) to develop the device.

‘He was concerned about the number of cases he was seeing where the process of delivering the patients to hospital actually made them worse,’ CDP founding director, Mike Cane, told The Engineer.

The new product makes use of the ‘backslab’ method of temporarily setting limbs used in hospitals where polyurethane-impregnated material is wrapped around the limb and hardens when exposed to air or water.

Each ResQSplint contains a package of this material and an amount of water that is released by pressing a point on the splint, rapidly setting it in place. The U-shaped design leaves part of the limb exposed so paramedics can check the blood flow.

Flexycast has produced a prototype of the splint and is now seeking funding to carry out clinical trials and commercialise the product.