Casting & Splinting
At Parkway Family Physicians we regularly apply all types of casts and splints depending on the type of injury and severity. As a complete family health care clinic we want our patients to have access to as much information as possible to help you understand your medical care and we hope you find this information on casts and splints helpful.
What Materials Are Used?
Fiberglass or plaster materials form the hard supportive layer in cast and splints. Fiberglass is lighter in weight, longer wearing and “breathes” better than plaster. Plaster is less expensive and shapes better than fiberglass for some uses. Both materials come in strips or rolls, which are dipped in water and applied over a layer of cotton or synthetic padding covering the injured area. We use digital X-rays to check the healing process of an arm or leg within a cast or splint.
How Is A Cast Or Splint Applied?
Casts are always custom-made, but splints may be custom or ready-made. Both fiberglass and plaster cast and splints use padding, usually cotton, as a protective layer next to the skin. The must fit the shape of the injured arm or leg correctly to provide the best possible support.
While the cast or splint is drying (it will only take about 15 minutes), you must hold your arm or leg in the position it was in when it was applied. Generally, the cast or splint covers the joint above and below the fractured bone. Frequently, a splint is applied to a fresh injury first and, as swelling subsides, a full cast may be used to replace the splint.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to replace a cast as swelling decreases and the cast “gets too big.” Often as a fracture heals, a cast may be replaced with a removable splint or boot to allow easy removal for therapy if needed.
Swelling due to your injury may cause pressure in your cast/splint for the first 48 to 72 hours. This may cause your injured arm or leg to feel snug or tight in your castor splint. To reduce swelling:
- Elevate your injured arm or leg above your heart by propping it up on pillows or some other support. You will have to recline if the castor splint is on your leg. Elevation allows clear fluid and blood to drain downhill to your heart.
- Move your uninjured, but swollen fingers gently and often.
- Apply ice to the castor splint. Place the ice in a dry plastic or ice pack and loosely wrap it around the splint or cast at the level of the injury. Ice that is packed in a rigid container and touches the cast or splint at only one point will not be effective.
The First Few Days
To help you get used to your new cast or splint, take time to adjust your balance to the extra weight by moving carefully and deliberately until you are comfortable with it.
Be Patient with Yourself!
The following precautions should help you to get back to normal as quickly as possible:
- Follow the instructions we give you.
- Move your uninjured, but swollen fingers and toes gently and frequently to prevent joint stiffness.
- Elevate your injured limb above your heart whenever possible for the first 24-72 hours to help reduce pain and swelling.
- Avoid bumping or knocking your cast/splint against hard surfaces.
- If you have a leg cast or splint, it may take your shoulders and arms a few days to get used to using crutches. Try to avoid overdoing it at first.
- If you have an arm cast or splint, you may be given a sling for the first few days.
- To avoid getting your cast or splint wet when taking a shower, cover it with a plastic bag and secure the bag to your skin with waterproof tape, making sure that it does not allow water to leak in.
- If possible, use a hand-held showerhead and try to direct the water away from it. If you do get your castor splint wet, dry it with a hand-held hair dryer set on cool. If soaking wet, please call Parkway Family Physicians.
Warning Signs Following Cast Or Splint Application
If you experience any of the following warning signs, contact our office at 651-690-1311 immediately for advice.
- Persistent pain.
- Your cast or splint feels too tight.
- Your cast or splint becomes loose, broken or cracked.
- You have painful rubbing under your cast or splint.
- You experience coldness or notice a whitish or bluish discoloration of your fingers or toes.
- You have pain, numbness or a tingling in your fingers or toes.
- You notice any drainage or unusual odor from you cast or splint.
- Keep dirt, sand and powder away from the inside of your cast or splint.
- Do not pull out the padding from your cast/splint.
- Do not stick objects such as coat hangers inside the cast/splint to scratch itchy skin. Using a hair dryer set on cool to blow air into the cast may soothe itching.
When it is time to remove your cast or splint we utilize a tool fitted with a special blade that vibrates, but does not rotate and will not cut your skin. When the cast or splint is being removed, you may feel a little warmth or tingling, but that's all.
Returning To Normal
Once we remove your cast or splint we will review your individual situation and establish guidelines regarding your activities and at which levels are best for you. If any rehabilitation or physical therapy is needed, we have several outstanding resources to help you continue your recovery.