What are the main differences between casts and splints?
Casts and Splints are both designed to immobilize and support injuries. A cast completely encompasses the injured limb, but a splint does not. Splints allow more room for swelling, but are not as effective at immobilizing the injury. Prefabricated splints are available in a wide range of materials and functions, but physicians will often use casting materials to create a custom, form-fitted splint. Depending on the nature of the injury, a physician will decide whether to use a splint or a cast. Splints are usually preferred if possible, as they are cheaper, easier to apply, and have lower risk of complications.
What are the main components of a cast?
A cast is typically comprised of three basic components: stockinette, cast padding, and casting material, but this may vary depending on the techniques or materials used.
What are the main components of a splint?
There are many different kinds of splints, available in a wide range of shapes, materials, and purposes. Splints generally consist of a rigid splinting material, padding, and a mechanism to hold the splint in place, such as a soft elastic bandage.
What is a stockinette?
A casting stockinette is made of soft material that stretches and conforms to the body. Stockinettes ensure an even surface for padding to adhere to.
What is cast padding?
Cast Underpadding is a soft wrapping that is applied for patient comfort and protection. Padding Strips are evenly wrapped around the injured limb. Cast Padding can be made from cotton or synthetic fibers, depending on the desired characteristics. Padding keeps moisture away from the skin, allows room for tissue swelling, and provides a protective layer.
What is casting tape?
Synthetic Casting Tapes or Plaster Bandages are the main source of rigidity in a cast. Casting tape is comprised of a bandage combined with a casting material. The bandage is carefully wrapped around the limb to the desired thickness.
What are the different casting materials?
Plaster of Paris, Fiberglass, and Polyester are the most common cast types. Plaster of Paris uses natural plaster as the casting material. Fiberglass and Polyester are considered synthetic casts and both use a polyurethane resin.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of plaster of paris casts?
Made from natural gypsum plaster, plaster casting materials are much economical than synthetic materials. Plaster of Paris is also easier to mold, resulting in a precise and comfortable fit. Once dry, plaster is extremely strong, but this process can take days. Plaster casts are much bulkier and heavier than synthetic casts. Dry plaster is extremely vulnerable to water and liquids and even a spilled drink may result in an unplanned cast replacement. Plaster casts are ideal for shorter-term casting, early treatments, and more delicate casting operations.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of fiberglass casts?
Fiberglass casts utilize a synthetic resin combined with a fiberglass substrate. Fiberglass casts are significantly lighter and stronger than plaster casts, and they have a lower breakdown rate. Synthetic casts set much faster than plaster, capable of being weight-bearing in as soon as 20 minutes. Fiberglass casts are also water resistant, and may be used with special waterproof stockinettes and paddings to create waterproof casts. Fiberglass casts tend to have a rougher finish and are much more difficult to mold.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of polyester casts?
Polyester casts use a synthetic resin with a polyester yarn substrate. Polyester Casting Tape is very flexible, conforming easily to the body's contours for a lighter, more comfortable fit than fiberglass. More flexible than fiberglass casts, Polyester Cast Tapes are often used to make semi-rigid casts. Semi-rigid casts allow some degree of movement, providing many benefits over complete joint immobilization. Many polyester casts may also be cut with scissors, allowing the creation of a wide range of custom-shaped splints.
How are casts removed?
Do not attempt to remove casts at home, as specialized equipment and training is required. Casts are removed with special saws that utilize vibrating blades. Cast Saws cut easily through hard casting material but have difficulty with soft padding.
Can casts get wet?
Plaster splints and casts cannot get wet, as water will permanently ruin the integrity of the cast. Synthetic casts, such as fiberglass and polyester, are naturally water resistant, but water contact should still be avoided as wet cast padding can cause severe skin complications. If your cast padding gets wet and does not quickly dry, call your physician.
What are waterproof casts?
With a physician's approval, waterproof casts can be made, allowing patients to bathe or even swim. Special cast padding and stockinettes are used, specifically designed to quickly shed water. Dirt, soap, salt water, chlorine, and other contaminants must still be carefully rinsed before drying. Waterproof casts are not possible with all injuries.
How long does it take a waterproof cast to dry?
Water resistant cast padding is designed to allow water to drain from the cast, which will take about 10-15 minutes. The remaining moisture will evaporate through the cast, completely drying in about an hour and a half. The outside may be dabbed dry with a towel, but wrapping the cast will slow the evaporation. Do not attempt to dry the inside of the cast, as this may damage the cast padding.
How do you relieve cast itch?
Itching will naturally occur. Avoid scratching, as this increases the risk of skin infection. Do not insert foreign objects into the cast, as they may damage the padding or get stuck. Do not insert powders or lotion inside the cast, as these may lead to serious skin complications. If itching continues or become unbearable, consult your physician to find an acceptable solution.
Why do casts get hot when setting?
When casts set, they go through a chemical reaction that releases heat. Generally, as the setting time decreases, heat output increases. Physicians can vary the temperature of the activating water to lengthen this process and reduce the risk of patient burns. Cast padding generally provides enough insulation to avoid injury.
Are there risks involved in casting?
While casting is a well-tested and well-practiced treatment, complications can arise. Most complications are easily treated with a cast change, but serious and permanent damage may occur if left unaddressed. Talk to your doctor about the signs and symptoms of complications, and call immediately if any arise.