6 Sam Splint Uses for Emergencies

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broken wrist

The SAM splint, also known as the Structural Aluminum Malleable splint, was devised by Dr. Sam Scheinberg. It functions as a ‘one-for-all’ use kind of splint, making it an indispensable component of the first aid kit. 

Its lightweight and malleability make it a good choice for temporarily immobilizing bones. There’s no doubt that its versatility in terms of use has made it a medical device with numerous benefits in orthopedic emergencies.

Although it’s a fundamental first aid tool, a lack of knowledge about SAM splint uses during emergencies can render it useless and greatly diminish its value. 

Here are six popular SAM splint uses for emergencies.

  • Splint For Dislocation In The Elbow

Dislocation, especially in the elbow, is a common orthopedic emergency among children. SAM splint can be used to comfortably immobilize the bone and maintain the elbow extension during such injury, thereby preventing further complications.

On the other hand, dislocation occurs when the radius and ulna move out of place compared to the humerus. This usually happens during a fall on an outstretched arm or as a result of a traumatic injury. 

To prevent further injury, a 36-inch SAM splint is drawn out from the armpit of the unaffected arm of the patient to the knuckles. Any extra length that extends beyond the knuckles is folded over. 

Meanwhile, a C-curve is formed down the whole splint, which is shaped to fit. The splint is then carefully applied and held in place on the injured arm. Check here for additional info on how to get the SAM splint for your first aid box.

  • Used As A Knee Immobilizer

A knee immobilizer is strictly indicated for knee injuries. Generally, knee injuries such as sprains, strains, knee dislocations, and fractures usually occur due to high-impact forces applied directly to the knee. 

Immobilization is a cardinal part of the treatment plan for knee injuries, making the SAM splint a practical application here once more. The splint is folded equally into halves that are then spread into a fan-shaped splint with a wide apex and a narrow base for the thigh and calf. 

The second splint of this type is formed with a C-curve. By positioning each of the two splints on each side of the knee, they’re firmly secured by a suitable wrap. This maintains the stability of the injured knee and also restrains its movement. In effect, it keeps the knee at rest during recovery.

  • Ankle Stirrup Splint
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Ankles stirrup splint is mainly used on a sprained or fractured ankle. A sprained ankle has its ligaments forced beyond their normal limits. This denies the ankle the support the ligaments are meant to provide. 

Due to its malleability, the SAM splint can be modeled into an ankle stirrup splint. It fills in the gaps in structural support on both sides of a sprained ankle. It also prevents movements in any direction that may cause the patient great discomfort.

Meanwhile, the padding of the splint is placed above the boney prominences of the ankle to ensure comfort. The SAM splint is then folded into two equal halves. The center of the splint is placed under the arch of the foot, and both halves of the stirrup splint are wrapped across the foot and ankle.

  • Wrist Injury

Application to wrist injuries such as wrist fractures, sprains, tendonitis, etc., is one of the most common SAM splint uses. In an attempt to prevent extreme complications from falls due to loss of balance, one tends to stretch out one’s arm while falling. 

As a result, the impact from such a fall can disproportionately stretch the ligaments connecting the wrist and bones of the hand further apart. In such an emergency, the first attempt at ensuring safety and preventing complications is by keeping the wrist immobile.

For this type of injury, the double-layer wrist splint is usually the go-to. It’s a simple form of splint that can be formed by folding the SAM splint upon itself. The end that fits into the wrist is rolled over to provide a cushion. The splint is then placed over the injured arm, and only a slight adjustment is made. 

Finally, the splint is wrapped up at the wrist to the elbow, then to the knuckles. This firmly but comfortably secures the wrist in a position where movements are restrained. Modifying the SAM splint in the form of a volar wrist splint can be applied for conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

  • Adjustable Cervical Collar
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The SAM splint can also be converted to an adjustable cervical collar whose function is to primarily forbid motion in the cervical spine in cases of neck injuries. A neck injury, also known as whiplash, is known to occur due to a sudden and strong motion that can injure the spine, ligaments, nerves, and other tissues of the neck.

Nevertheless, this improvisation allows for stability in the spine after the impact. It also keeps the head firm in its normal aligned position by extension. 

To convert it to an adjustable cervical collar, the SAM splint is folded at each end with one finger while a large curve is created concurrently in the opposite directions using one’s thumb. This is then carefully positioned under the patient’s neck. Suitable wraps are used to hold the upper and lower edges in place.

  • Head Immobilizer

In cases of a suspected spinal injury, movement should be restricted by all possible means. Any unnecessary activity can lead to permanent paralysis and more severe complications. In this situation, the SAM splint can be modified into a head bed in such an emergency. 

The head bed provides immobilization for both the head and neck of the patient. By placing the splint flat beneath the head, it contours to each side of the head and provides support. This setup applies firm pressure to both sides of the head, restraining flexion and rotation. Both the splint and the head are secured with an adhesive strap. 

Additionally, slight adjustments can be made to the head bed to make it capable of elevating the head. Head elevation has been found to reduce intracranial pressure, especially during a traumatic head injury. Hence, a SAM splint can function efficiently as a tool for immobilizing and elevating the head. 

Conclusion

One can’t possibly have all the medical supplies and equipment packed in one’s kit during an emergency. In such cases, the versatility of a SAM splint comes into play. It offers the advantages of compactness, lightweight, comfort, and reusability. 

More importantly, it can be conveniently fashioned into a splint over any injured part of the body that requires structural support. Any orthopedic emergency kit is incomplete without such a valuable device.

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