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Part 8

When the arm is broken, if one stretch the fore-arm and adjust it while in this position, the muscle of the arm will be bound while extended; but when the dressing is over, and the patient bends his arm at the elbow, the muscle of the arm will assume a different shape. The following, then, is the most natural plan of setting the arm: having got a piece of wood a cubit or somewhat less in length, like the handles of spades,[p. 179] suspend it by means of a chain fastened to its extremities at both ends; and having seated the man on some high object, the arm is to be brought over, so that the armpit may rest on the piece of wood, and the man can scarcely touch the seat, being almost suspended; then having brought another seat, and placed one or more leather pillows under the arm, so as to keep it a moderate height while it is bent at a right angle, the best plan is to put round the arm a broad and soft skin, or broad shawl, and to hang some great weight to it, so as to produce moderate extension; or otherwise, while the arm is in the position I have described, a strong man is to take hold of it at the elbow and pull it downward. But the physician standing erect, must perform the proper manipulation, having the one foot on some pretty high object, and adjusting the bone with the palms of his hands; and it will readily be adjusted, for the extension is good if properly applied. Then let him bind the arm, commencing at the fracture, and do otherwise as directed above; let him put the same questions and avail himself of the same signs to ascertain whether the arm be moderately tight or not; and every third day let him bind it anew and make it tighter; and on the seventh or ninth day let him bind it up with splints, and leave it so until after the lapse of more than thirty days. And if he suspect that the bone is not lying properly, let him remove the bandages in the interval, and having adjusted the arm, let him bind it up again. The bone of the arm is generally consolidated in forty days. When these are past, the dressing is to be removed, and fewer and slacker bandages applied instead of it. The patient is to be kept on a stricter diet, and for a longer space of time than in the former case; and we must form our judgment of it from the swelling in the hand, looking also to the strength of the patient. This also should be known, that the arm is naturally inclined outward; to this side, therefore, the distortion usually takes place, if not properly treated; but indeed, all the other bones are usually distorted during treatment for fracture to that side to which they naturally incline. When, therefore, anything of this kind is suspected, the arm is to be encircled in a broad shawl, which is to be carried round the [p. 180]breast, and when the patient goes to rest, a compress of many folds, or some such thing, is to be folded and placed between the elbow and the side, for thus the bending of the bone will be rectified, but care must be taken lest it be inclined too much inwards.

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