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Call for Casting or Splints

February 6, 2017
Young girl with a broken arm.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, broken bones are a common injury with about 6 million Americans breaking bones each year. When a bone breaks, the orthopedic surgeon puts the pieces back together in the right position. Casts and splints support, protect and hold injured bones in place while they heal. Generally, the cast or splint covers the joint above and below the broken bone and helps to reduce pain, swelling and muscle spasms.

 

What is a Cast?

Casts are custom-made. They must correctly fit the shape of the injured limb to provide the best support. Additionally, they can be made of plaster or fiberglass, plastic that can be shaped. Fiberglass is lighter in weight and stronger than plaster. X-rays can see through fiberglass better than through plaster and show the physician whether the bones are healing properly or have moved out of place. Cotton padding is used as a protective layer next to the skin before the injured limb is put into a cast.

 

What is a Splint?

Splints or half-casts can also be custom-made, especially if an exact fit is necessary. Other times, a ready-made splint is used. These off-the-shelf splints are made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Splints or “half-casts” provide less support than casts. However, splints can be adjusted to accommodate swelling from injuries easier than enclosed casts. They have Velcro straps, which make the splints easy to put on, take off and adjust. A splint may be applied to a fresh injury first and as swelling subsides a full cast may replace the splint. Or the reverse could happen. The splint could replace the cast in order to better accommodate physical therapy exercises. Swelling due to injury may cause pressure in the splint or cast for the first 48 to 72 hours. To keep the swelling down, lessen pain and help the injury heal:

  • Elevate. Elevation allows clear fluid and blood to drain “downhill” to the heart.
  • Exercise. Move the uninjured, but swollen fingers or toes gently and often to prevent stiffness.
  • Ice. Apply ice to the splint or cast in a dry plastic bag or ice pack and loosely wrap it around the splint or cast at the level of the injury.

 

Serious injuries must be protected from damage while healing:

  • Keep the cast or splint dry.
  • Keep dirt, sand, and powder away from the inside of the cast or splint.
  • Do not pull out the padding.
  • Do not stick objects or apply powders inside the cast or splint to scratch itching skin. Contact the orthopedist for persistent itching or any skin irritation around or under the cast.
  • Never remove the cast at home.

 

Broken bones take several weeks to several months to heal. The pain usually stops long before the bone is solid enough to handle the stresses of everyday activities. A cast or splint must be worn until the bone is fully healed and can support itself. Exercises during the healing process and after the cast is removed are important to restore normal muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility. The Direct Orthopedic Care experts provide the highest quality orthopedic care for breaks including surgery, casting, and aftercare.

Source

OrthoInfo

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