What are Orthoses, Casts and Braces?

Orthoses (commonly known as  splints) are often custom fabricated by the Hand Therapist to rest, protect or mobilize an injury segment. For example,  following a wrist fracture, an orthosis may be custom fabricated to immobilize the wrist and protect the healing fracture.  The advantage of an orthosis compared to a cast, is that it can be removed for bathing.   Custom orthoses are also fabricated to increase range of motion (ROM) following an injury resulting in joint stiffness.  Custom orthoses  are commonly fabricated from a low-temperture plastic.  A few Pre-fabricated or non-custom orthoses are used during treatment to immobilize a joint or to mobilized or increase ROM in a joint.  Billing codes  L-codes are used to distinguish between custom and pre-fabricated orthoses to the insurance companies.  

Casts are utilized to immobilize a fracture, or correct a joint contracture. The Hand Therapist uses a series of plaster casts as a treatment to correct contractures. The Physician uses a cast to immobilize a broken bone, for example a wrist fracture. This immobilization cast may be constructed from plaster or fiberglass.

Brace is a term not often used by Hand Therapist. Sometimes people will refer to their splints as braces. Braces tend to be heavy duty and more commonly used to describe neck, back or leg supports.