The effective immobilisation of fractures has always been an important aspect of prehospital care. A fractured femur is a serious injury which can result in significant pain, haemorrhage, and tissue damage, but these complications can all be minimised by splinting. This can best be achieved with a traction splint, which is standard equipment in all modern ambulance services. However, in rural and remote Australia, or in the developing world, trained bystanders need a method for handing a fractured femur while awaiting professional help. Paramedics may need an alternative to the traction splint, in situations of mass casualty disasters. A method which is suited to these scenarios was first described by Robert Liston in 1846, and was subsequently adapted for first aid use. Liston was a Scottish born surgeon, whose work in the pre-anaesthetic era is regarded as remarkable. Liston's splint formed part of the armamentarium of first aid from 1878 to 1982, and its role in contemporary prehospital care should be reconsidered.
David Fahey, OStJ, BAppSc, MBBS(Hons) David is currently State Officer, St John Ambulance Australia, Queensland and Anaesthetics Registrar, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane.
"Liston’s Splint – A forgotten first aid technique,"
Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care:
1, Article 8.
Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/jephc/vol7/iss1/8