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Casting & Splinting

How Do You Know if You Need a Cast or a Splint?

Injuries to an extremity such as the wrist or ankle can range from a sprain to a fracture, or broken bone.  It is important to consult with one of our orthopedic specialists to determine what kind of damage may have been imparted on your extremity.  An appropriate treatment plan will be developed after review of your history, appropriate examination of the injured limb and after review of the x-rays.  If one of our specialists determines a need for immobilization of the injured limb, a cast or splint may be applied at the time of your visit.



What is the Difference Between a Cast and a Splint?

A splint is usually applied to a new injury to allow for appropriate immobilization.  The splint differs from a cast in that it is not applied in a circumferential manner as with a cast.  The splint is usually fabricated from material such as plaster of Paris or fiberglass material.  The material is molded into stirrups, applied over cast padding and over-wrapped with an Ace bandage.  This technique allows for accommodation of swelling to an injured limb.


The cast uses similar materials as with a splint, except it is applied in a circumferential manner, meaning it is wrapped around the injured extremity.  This manner of treatment is not conducive to swelling and as such is usually not applied to a limb in the acute setting; however, there may be exceptions to this.



Will I Need to get the Fracture Reduced, or Set?

A fracture manipulation or reduction may be required if it is determined to be in a suboptimal alignment or if it felt to be medically necessary.  Compromise of blood flow or impingement on nerves may require this to be done in an urgent manner.




Cast & Splint Care:

*The following information provides general guidelines only and should not serve as a substitute for your doctor’s advice.


Swelling at Fracture Site:

Rest and elevation help reduce pain and swelling. Swelling due to your injury may cause pressure in your splint or cast for the first 48 to 72 hours. This may cause your injured arm or leg to feel snug or tight in the splint or cast.


How to Reduce Swelling?

•Elevate your injured arm or leg above your heart by propping it up on pillows or some other support. You will have to recline if the cast is on your leg.

•Move your uninjured fingers or toes gently and often.

•Apply ice to the splint or cast. Place the ice in a dry plastic bag or ice pack and loosely wrap it around the splint or cast at the level of the injury.


How to Take Care of Your Cast or Splint:

•Keep your cast dry. If you wish to shower, you may cover the cast with a waterproof plastic bag and secure the bag above the cast with tape.

•Keep dirt, sand, and powder away from the inside of your splint or cast.

•Do not pull out the padding from your cast.

•You may experience itching underneath the cast, but DO NOT attempt to scratch by poking ANYTHING down the cast. This may create a wound that could become infected.

•If your skin becomes red or raw around the cast, you may try padding the edge of the cast with soft material.

•Never attempt to remove the cast yourself.


Reasons to Notify the Doctor’s Office:

• If the cast becomes too tight or loose


• If  the cast becomes wet

• If the cast cracks, dents or develops soft areas

• If you experience increasing numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes or lose the ability to move your fingers or toes call the doctors office immediately or seek care in an emergency center.