The Thomas splint revolutionized emergency medicine during World War I. This device diminished the mortality rate of femoral fractures from 80% to 20%.

The splint was invented in the late 1800s by Hugh Owen Thomas as an apparatus to immobilize fractures of the lower extremeties. Doctor Thomas came from a long line of men who set bones for a living and Hugh was known for his inventiveness. His splint was simplistic in design, easy to use, and cheap to make, yet it was not truly appeciated until WWI when the world was rocked by gunfire.

Image Credit: Ortho Rhode Island

The splint drastically changed battlefield medicine and was utilized in compound ballistic injuries. Before use of the splint was common, the mortality rate of compound femoral fractures was 80%, mostly due to infection. After the splint became a concrete component to battlefield medicine, the survival rate shot up to 80%. The frame forces the leg into a full extension, pulling the thick muscles back, allowing the bone to be set back into it’s proper place. The faster the break was stabilized, the lower the risk of infection. This device has since become an essential emercigancy device worldwide and has changed very little from the original design.

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