Our Experience With Polythene (Vitrathene

C. Corriveau, CP. & O.


For many years the prosthetic and orthotic industry has employed a variety of conventional materials. However, certain of these materials -notably willow wood and leather- are becoming progressively obsolete and are being replaced by plastics, which entered our field some 15 or more years ago. There is no need to elaborate on the properties of the polyester resins used extensively today with fillers of jersey, cotton, silk, fiberglas, etc., to produce long-lasting prostheses with a high degree of cosmetic acceptance. However, in view of the increasing multiplicity and availability of these plastic materials, questions constantly arise as to which of them are of value in prosthetic-orthotic applications and when and where they should be used.

In some instances and for certain purposes, it is preferable to use a plastic that can be molded on a cast, rather than one that is laminated. The group of plastics of the former type includes a rather large family named polythene. It may be of interest to prosthetists, orthotists, and occupational therapists to discuss the possibilities offered by one member of the polythene family known as Vitrathene.

To the best of our knowledge, the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital at Stanmore, Middlesex, England, was the first to use this kind of polythene; it has also been used with great success at the Rehabilitation Institute of Montreal. Vitrathene has been used to make cervical collars (Fig. 1 ) for patients who have been severely burned on the chest and neck, thus avoiding contractures while keeping the grafted tissues from being stretched during healing.

Many corsets fabricated of Vitrathene have replaced the conventional corsets for poliomyelitis cases with great advantages to the wearers (Fig. 2 ). Using this material, it is quite easy to measure the patient in the morning, fabricate a body cast before noon, mold the corset, and complete the appliance on the same day. A great many splints, cock-up splints, T-bars, and metacarpal bars, together with airplane splints, have been produced. Plastic boots for clubfeet, plastic splints to stretch heel contractures, and many other special apparatus have been made which enabled the patient to walk or swim while wearing the appliance, there being no rust, corrosion, or absorption of water.

During the last three years, the Rehabilitation Institute of Montreal has used Vitrathene* in the construction of over 500 appliances of all kinds.

*S.S. Pink 2A0, Stanley Smith & Co., Worple Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, England.

Advantages of Vitrathene

  1. This plastic can be molded on a wet plaster cast, which cannot be done with polyester resin.

  2. The material can be stitched easily.

  3. It can be heated and reshaped locally when the appliance is completed.

  4. This plastic has no "memory" whatsoever.

  5. The time for hardening varies from five to ten minutes.

  6. Eyelets, rivets, and otherfastening devices can be easily attached.

  7. This plastic can be easily cut with a knife, a pair of scissors, or a band saw. The edges re readily polished and sanded. Holes can be made with little difficulty. No allergic reaction has manifested itself to date. It is easily washable and well tolerated and accepted by the patient.

After three years of experience with Vitrathene, we can say with confidence that this material offers many advantages over other plastics in the fabrication of orthotic and prosthetic devices. One of the greatest advantages of all is the fact that practically no tools and a minimum of equipment are needed to work with this material. If an oven is not available, infrared lamps can be used to heat the material to its working temperature of from 225 to 275 F.

C. Corriveau, CP. & O. is Head, Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory Rehabilitation Institute of Montreal Montreal, Quebec