Caring For Your New Cast
A broken bone is nothing to mess with, especially if it's your child. After the initial shock of whatever inciting event caused it and the stress of emergency treatment, the cast goes on, and you're left with one question: now what? A cast isn't quite as tricky to manage as other medical equipment, but it has its own challenges. Caring for a cast starts with knowing what one is.
What is a cast?
As you might imagine, a broken bone needs time to heal correctly without moving out of its place. Simply put, a cast is an orthopedic device used to completely immobilize a broken bone in order to heal correctly.
Orthopedic casts can be made from a number of durable materials, but the best material depends on the type of injury that has occurred. The most common type of cast is made from plaster, which is applied wet and then allowed to dry, locking an appendage in place. They are the most common type of cast as they are solid and lightweight, making them ideal for supporting broken bones.
The second most common, fiberglass casts or Prefabricated Molded Lange casts, are made from layers of fiberglass cloth coated with resin. Fiberglass casts are stronger and more durable than plaster casts, but they're also heavier and can be far less comfortable to wear for long periods. They are most commonly used for fractures in the forearm or lower leg.
There are many different types of casts to cover other parts of the body. The most common type, an arm or leg cast, often comes to mind, but different kinds of casts may require different maintenance.
A univalve cast is likely the type of cast that comes to mind when you picture one. It is a single tube designed to be completely closed on all sides. Although there is usually room left for some swelling, it's not quite as roomy as a bivalve cast.
A bivalve cast is a univalve cast, split in two, and bound around the injured area. This split allows for more swelling caused by an injury. Both of which are usually placed around the leg or arm.
Hip Spica Cast
A hip spica is most commonly placed on children that cannot maintain stability on their own and are usually placed around the hip.
A Minerva cast is placed around the neck and upper torso, usually following surgery or neck injury.
Abduction Boot Cast
An abduction boot cast, similar to a hip spica, is placed around the hips and legs to stabilize the hips. In this case, a stabilizing bar is set between both legs to keep the entire lower body immobile.
Caring For Your Cast
Once the orthopedic cast has been applied, it will need to be checked regularly by an orthopedic provider to ensure that it's still fitting correctly and that the skin underneath is still healthy. Between visits, it's essential to reduce pain and keep the skin underneath it healthy.
Keep it elevated above your heart for the first 1-2 days after a cast is set. This helps reduce swelling and pain by safely draining blood and other fluids away from the injury.
- Keep your cast clean by avoiding dirt, sand, or other potentially contaminating substances.
- In the case that your cast does become dirty, avoid getting it wet. You can use a damp cloth without soap or a baby wipe to clean the affected area - but be sure to fully dry the area.
- For regular hygiene, use a cast protector if getting in the bath or shower.
- Avoid scratching itches with any foreign object. Things like pencils or coat hangers can cause a cut or scratch that can become infected.
Drawbacks of Orthopedic Casts
There are some drawbacks to orthopedic casts, of course. They can be pretty itchy and cumbersome, making it more uncomfortable to perform everyday tasks while wearing them. Additionally, casts can sometimes cause skin irritation. However, these drawbacks are typically outweighed by the benefits of immobilization and decreased pain and swelling. Overall, orthopedic casts provide an effective and safe way to treat broken bones.
If Something Seems Off, Contact Your Provider.
Sometimes casts don't work the way they are intended. It's important to contact your provider if your child experiences any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden or worsening pain.
- Cut or breakage of the skin due to scratching.
- Feeling as though something is stuck in your cast.
- A clear indicator of lack of oxygen, including numbness or blue skin.
- Suddenly elevated discomfort.
- Your cast becomes cracked or broken.
- Odor or fluids coming from the cast.