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Cast FAQ's

The information on this website is intended as a guideline only. It is not intended to replace any directions given by your Medical Practitioner or other health care professional.

Why splints and casts?

Splints and casts support and protect injured bones and soft tissue, reducing pain, swelling, and muscle spasm. In some cases, splints and casts are applied following surgery. Splints or 'back-slabs' provide less support than casts. However, splints can be adjusted to accommodate swelling from injuries easier than enclosed casts. Your doctor will decide which type of support will be best for you.

Types of splints and casts

Casts are custom-made and are applied by your doctor or a Orthopaedic Technologist . Casts can be made of plaster or fibreglass. Splints or 'back-slabs' also can be custom-made, especially if an exact fit is necessary. Other times, a ready-made splint will be used. These off-the-shelf splints are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are much easier and faster to use. They have velcro straps which make the splints easy to adjust, and take on and off. Your doctor/technician will explain both how to use your injured arm or leg while it is healing and how to adjust your splint to accommodate swelling.

What materials are used in splints and casts?

Fibreglass or plaster materials form the hard supportive layer in splints and casts. Fibreglass is lighter in weight, longer wearing, and 'breathes' better than plaster. Plaster is less expensive than fibreglass and for some uses shapes better than fibreglass. Both materials come in strips or rolls which are dipped in water and applied over a layer of cotton or synthetic padding covering the injured area. X-rays to check the healing process of an arm or leg within a splint or cast penetrate or 'see through' fibreglass better than plaster.

How are splints and casts applied?

Both fibreglass and plaster splints and casts use padding, usually cotton, as a protective layer next to the skin. The splint or cast must fit the shape of the injured arm or leg correctly to provide the best possible support. Generally, the joint above and below the fractured bone is also covered by the splint or cast. Frequently, a splint is applied to a fresh injury first and, as swelling subsides, a full cast may be used to replace the splint. Sometimes, it may be necessary to replace a cast as swelling decreases and the cast 'gets loose'. Often as a fracture heals, a splint may be applied again to allow easy removal for therapy.

Proper cast removal

Never remove the cast yourself. You may cut your skin or prevent proper healing of your injury. Your doctor/technician will use a cast saw to remove your cast. The saw vibrates, but does not rotate. If the blade of the saw touches the padding inside the hard shell of the cast, the padding will vibrate with the blade and will protect your skin. Cast saws make noise and may feel 'hot' from friction, but will not harm you.