Cast and Splint Care
Why a splint or cast?
Your doctor has applied a cast or splint to protect your broken bone, injury and in some cases, following surgery. Splints and casts help reduce pain, swelling and muscle spasms.
How are splints/casts applied?
Whether you have a cast or splint, it was applied using stockinet and/or padding, usually of synthetic or cotton material, which provides a protective layer next to the skin. The casting/splinting material is immersed in room temperature water. Once removed it is applied directly to the padded injured arm or leg.
To provide the best support possible, the cast must fit the shape of the injured arm or leg correctly. Generally, the splint or cast also 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 or solid cast may be required. As swelling continues to decrease, the cast may begin to feel loose or “too big” and it may be necessary to replace the cast. Often as a fracture heals, a removable splint may be applied to allow for therapy on the arm or leg.
Getting used to the cast/splint
For your treatment to be successful, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. The following information should serve as only guidelines and should not replace your physician’s advice.
- Dealing with swelling – You will probably have swelling for a few days after your surgery or injury that may cause your cast/splint to feel tight. To help reduce the swelling, raise the injured arm or leg above your heart as often as possible for at least the first 72 hours after the cast/splint is applied. You may need to lie down and use pillows to prop up the injury as well as cushion it from hard surfaces.
- Ice the affected area several times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. Never apply ice directly to exposed skin, always place a dry cloth or towel over the skin before applying the ice pack. To prevent water leakage, place the ice in a tightly sealed plastic bag or ice pack.
- Itchy skin is common under a cast. Blowing cool air from a hair dryer or fan into the cast may help.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor or nurse at (731) 661-9825:
- You cannot move your fingers or toes.
- You have extreme pain or increased pain that you believe is from swelling and your cast/splint feels too tight.
- You have numbness or tingling in your foot or hand.
- The skin under your cast is burning or stinging.
- You have muscle spasms or cramps under your cast.
- You have drainage and an odor coming from your cast.
Never cut, modify or remove the cast/splint yourself, you could cut your skin or prevent proper healing of your injury. It is important that you do not remove any of the cast padding inside of the hard shell of the cast.
When it is determined by your doctor that your injury has healed; a cast technician will remove your cast with either a cast saw or bandage scissors. The cast saw makes a noise and you will probably experience a vibration while the cast is being removed.
Taking Care of Your Cast/Splint
It is important to keep you cast/splint in good condition. Take care of your cast and it will take care of you.
- Do not get the cast/splint wet. Should it become wet, use a towel to remove the excess moisture and notify your doctor. Moisture can collect under the cast/splint and cause skin irritation or itching. If you have a wound or have had surgery, moisture can increase the risk of infection.
- Do not insert any materials into the cast/splint.
- Avoid activities that may result in dirt, sand or other foreign articles getting under the cast/splint.
- Do not pull out the padding from your cast/splint.
- Do not break off rough edges of the cast or trim the cast before asking your doctor.
- If your cast becomes cracked or develops soft spots, contact our office.
Helping Take Care of a Child In a Cast
- Children need to keep fractured bones from moving while they heal.
- Slight pain is normal during the first few days in a cast. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease discomfort. Never give aspirin to a child as it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a serious disease.
- If your child has an itch in her cast, try blowing some air inside with a hair dryer on a cool setting. Never pour baby powder into the cast or try to reach the itch with a long object; both could cause irritation or infection.
- Call our office if the cast cracks. A simple repair can usually be done without having to remove or change the cast.
- If you notice that your child’s skin under the cast is turning white, purple, or blue, the cast may be too tight. Call our office.
- If you notice the skin is red or raw, the cast is probably wet on the inside from sweat or water. Again, call our office at (731) 661-9825.