This is a simple article on the plasters and splints used in fracture care. This article also gives information about the different types of plaster materials available and regarding the care to be taken.
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.
Yes, plaster can be used in first aid. It serves as adhesive that can cover the grazes or small cuts. Plasters are available in different shapes and sizes. They are also available as waterproof materials.
Splints serve as a hard wrap. It has a lot of orthopedic functions. Splints support the injured ligaments, bones, joints, and other tissues. It can also reduce the pain and swelling in the injured site. It helps to keep the bone in place without moving. This will fasten the recovery process.
A fracture can be immobilized by special bracing method and cast immobilization. This is the commonly used method because the bones that are damaged by fracture can heal successfully. You should consult your doctor for various treatment procedures.
Splints can aid in the process of healing. The rigidity provided by the splints help in healing of the fractured bones and ligaments faster. The formation of new bones might take upto six weeks.
Yes, you should splint a fracture or an injury. This will prevent further injury that might take place. Any suspected dislocation and fracture should be immobilized or splinted. Splints can also provide relief from pain.
The plaster is in the form of a dry powder. Before making it into a paste, it is mixed with water. The mixture with water will provide a paste that can be applied to the injured site. After it is applied, heat is generated and it hardens. This stiffness is necessary for maintaining the rigidity of the joints.
Your skin might itch after splinting. Do not use sharp objects to scratch the splinted area. Do not use lotions or oil near the splinted area. You are not recommended to use sharp pencils and pens on the affected site. Do not stick sharp items on them.
It is normal for a splint to smell to a certain extent. If you experience any foul smell or discharge from the splint, then this might indicate an infection. You have to consult your doctor immediately.
The time taken for a fracture to break is approximately three to six weeks. You have to put on your splint throughout this period. Generally, it is not removed immediately after the completion of six weeks. The doctor will advise the time duration required depending on the healing capacity of the individual.
After the wrist surgery, the splint will be placed for two weeks after the surgery. Following the first check up, the splint will be replaced by a removable splint. This has to be worn by the patient up to four weeks.
You do not have to wear the thumb splint all the time. It can be worn only during the nighttime or while sleeping. After removing the splint, perform mild rotation to the wrist and fingers. Wearing the splint for a prolonged time can cause excessive stiffness and it is not recommended. It can cause stiffness in the joints.
The stability of the bone will be assessed by the doctor. In stable conditions, the injured finger will be splinted with the adjacent finger and the patient will be asked to refrain from any difficult exercises. The duration might change from one patient to another patient.
Last reviewed at:
22 Aug 2019 - 2 min read
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