Plaster Cast Care
- Keep your affected limb propped up on a pillow when sleeping to avoid swelling in your cast which can cause pain.
- Exercise any joints sticking out from the cast e.g. wiggle your toes or fingers to prevent stiffness.
- Do not Wet your cast. This will crack it. To bathe tie a plastic bag around the cast.
- If you get your cast wet you can use a blow drier to dry it.
- Do not Cut your plaster cast yourself - go back to your fracture clinic to have it trimmed or loosened if needed. Doctors use a non sharp saw like a vibrating pizza cutter to cut casts without cutting your skin. Never use a box cutter, power saw, or razor - you might cut yourself!
- Do not Stand on your cast, or rest on any hard surfaces like the back of a chair for the first day as the plaster needs time to harden to full strength.
- Don't dig under the cast with hangers, skewers e.t.c. You risk damaging your skin and infection.
- Graffiti with markers is fine - a well decorated cast can make a snazzy momento to keep after it's removed. Don't use ball points or pencils as they may dig out channels in the cast weakening it.
Cast Care rule of thumb: take good care of your cast so your cast takes good care of you. A plaster cast is a rigid support tube that keeps the broken ends of your bone touching and aligned so the bone heals anatomically true. Without a cast your broken bones may heal crooked or not at all.
Types of Cast
There are two main types of cast: plaster casts and plastic casts. Plaster gypsum casts look chalky white, crack if hit hard, and get soft if wet. Plastic casts are epoxy like honey, blue, or clear colored newer casts which are extremely durable and need very little care - but cost more. We'll be talking more about good ole' plaster casts as they are the most commonly used casts and also need the most care.
How a Cast is Put On
After straightening a broken bone the plaster is applied over a cotton bandage using a damp roll of Plaster of Paris mesh which is spun around your bone like a roll of toilet paper. As the water evaporates the cast gets very warm and hard. The cotton underneath protects your skin from the heat and from rubbing against the rocky cast when it sets. By the next day your plaster cast has cured and is a strong support tube for your healing bones.
Get your Cast Changed If
- Your cast gets soft and cracks.
- You develop increasing pain, numbness, or pins and needles or your toes or fingers turn blue. These are signs that your cast is too tight and cutting off blood flow. Not good!
- Your cast stinks. Pew. This can be a sign of infection. Get your cast checked.
- Remember to keep all follow up appointments. No point in wearing a cast longer than you need to.
Doctor Secrets! "Xrays can see through a plaster cast. You don't have to take it off".