A hip split is a device that is strapped onto the outside of a person's hip in order to immobilize the joint. In some cases, this type of splint may be designed to prevent any movement in the hip at all while, in others, it may limit range of movement, usually by preventing the leg from moving directly below the torso. Young children are sometimes outfitted with hip splints in order to help the hip joint develop properly. Patients of any age who fracture a hip or who suffer a serious soft tissue injury may also use these splints to prevent further injury while the hip is healing.
Modern hip splints are almost always made from hard fiberglass or plastic, materials which are lightweight and durable. The inside of the splint is lined with padding so that it isn't uncomfortable against the patient's skin. Adjustable straps on the outside of the splint can be used to tighten it so that it stays in place. Patients may need to wear a hip splint for an extended period of time, though it is usually possible for a patient to take off and put on a splint without the assistance of a doctor.
One of the most common uses of a hip splint is to protect a joint that has sustained an injury. Most splints can be easily adjusted, making them particularly useful if swelling is present because the splint can be tightened as the swelling goes down. If a patient has fractured a bone in the hip joint, the hip splint is usually designed to completely immobilize the joint so that the bones grow back together properly. In the case of a soft tissue injury, the splint may allow the patient some range of movement.
Hip dysplasia can also be treated with a hip splint. In this disorder, a baby's hips do not develop properly. These types of hip splints usually fit around the child's waist, both hips, and the tops of both legs. They hold the legs out at an angle that allows the joints to develop correctly. In many cases, the use of these splints, for a time, will correct the dysplasia.
Emergency medicine may also use hip splints. Splinting an injury right after it happens helps to keep the swelling down in the joint and can relieve some pain. Immobilizing the joint will also prevent further injury. Unless it is absolutely necessary, a patient who has sustained a serious hip injury should not attempt to move or walk and should be carried to a medical facility prone because any putting any weight on the affected leg or moving it can make the injury worse.