Published on Aug 27, 2013 and last reviewed on Aug 22, 2019 - 2 min read
When you get injured, casts and splints help protect the broken bone and injured soft tissues. Doctors manipulate the fracture to align the broken bone and they stabilize it by applying a cast or splint. The cast holds the bones in place while they unite. It also helps reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasm.
In some instances following surgery, splints and casts are applied to immobilize bones or joints.
Splints are nothing but “half-casts” and offer less stability than the casts. But splints are malleable, adjustable, and can be accommodated according to the type of injury or swelling. The doctor decides which type of support suits the situation.
A cast is custom-made as they must fit according to the shape of the injured limb. They can be made from 'plaster of Paris' or fiberglass.
Plaster of Paris or fiberglass can be molded according to individual needs to make custom-made splints. Nowadays, readymade splints of various sizes and shapes, attached with velcro straps are available, which are comfortable and easier to use.
Recently, thermoplastic material has been introduced, which has the advantage of being lightweight with a good cosmetic appearance, from which casts and splints can be made.
Plaster of Paris: Plaster bandage is the traditional material used to make casts and splints. Plaster can be molded better than fiberglass and is cheaper. The disadvantage is that it is heavy and weaker than fiberglass.
Fiberglass: It is lighter in weight, strong enough to hold the weight of the patient, and easy to apply.
Initially, after a fresh injury, splints are applied. As the swelling subsides, a full cast can be applied, if necessary. Before application of a cast or splint, it is necessary to give a protective layer of soft cotton padding and extra padding to bony prominences.
Both the materials are available in strips or rolls which are dipped in water and applied over the padded area. The splint or cast must fit the shape of the injured limb and also cover the joint above and below the broken bone.
In some instances, as the swelling comes down, the cast may have to be reapplied. In rare cases, as the swelling comes down, the fracture may lose alignment, and then, it may be necessary to realign and reapply the cast.
Sometimes, when the fracture is healing, the cast may be replaced with a splint to facilitate rehabilitative exercises.
Report immediately to your doctor if you observe any of these:
Your doctors will advise you about this at the time of removal of the cast.
After the removal of the cast, the skin may be dry with layers of peeled off dead skin. They can be removed with a good wash with soap and application of moisturizers.
You may also feel a stiffness of the joints and some wasting of the muscles around the joint, which can be rectified with physiotherapy exercises after the removal of cast or splint.
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