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Intensive care patients who suffer prolonged immobilization are at risk for development of contractures, and at-risk extremities should be splinted to retain function.

Definitions and Terms

  • ▪  Contracture: Muscle and tendon shortening following prolonged disuse


  • ▪  Resting splints are applied to the hands, wrists, and ankles (Figures 54-1, 54-2, 54-3, 54-4, and 54-5) of intensive care unit (ICU) patients who are unconscious or unable to move for prolonged periods.

Figure 54-3.

Wrist and hand splint with straps.

Figure 54-5.

Ankle splint showing heel clearance.

Clinical Pearls and Pitfalls

  • ▪  Despite the fact that there are little published data showing evidence for the efficacy of splints, many physical therapists advocate their use.

Suggested Reading

Stiller K. Physiotherapy in intensive care: towards an evidence-based practice. Chest. 2000;118:1801–1823.  [PubMed: 11115476]

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