Casts are usually made from either plaster (plaster of paris) or fibreglass. Plaster is often used in the early stages of treatment because it can be moulded/shaped more accurately (eg. for wrists/forearm).
Plaster back-slabs (plaster that does not fully enclose the limb) are often used in the first few weeks after surgery to allow for swelling and to check wounds.
Fiberglass casts are lighter and more durable. They are often put on after stitches have been removed and swelling controlled.
Keep the arm/leg elevated as much as possible.
Remember-Elevate, Elevate, Elevate!
- rest the arm on pillows when sitting or lying down
- resting on a sofa with your arm across the back is ideal
- use the sling provided as instructed/advised
- when sitting or lying prop the leg up on pillows.
- just going to the toilet a few times a day means the leg is down for an hour and it can take a whole day of keeping the leg up to correct this.
- the first two weeks are not the time to go out socialising.
- Swelling of the fingers or toes around a cast is common
- Minimise swelling by elevating the leg/arm
- Move the fingers/toes to help keep the blood circulating
How do I look after the cast?
- Keep the plaster dry
- Wet casts can itch, smell and be uncomfortable
- In the shower- cover the plaster with a garbage bag & seal with tape
- Don’t be tempted to itch the skin under a cast with anything (chopsticks, pencil, knitting needles, rulers, or coins). This can cause skin irritations, and result in infections under the cast
- Don’t put creams or powders on the skin under the cast
What if there is a problem with my cast?
Most cast problems are minor, but there are a few signs to be aware of when you have a cast-
- Severe pain
- Damage to the cast- areas of moisture, odour, discharge
- Pins & needles or numbness
- Unable to move fingers or toes
- Change in color to the skin
- Change in temperature to fingers or toes
Mild symptoms should be relieved by elevating the arm/leg and taking simple painkillers. Otherwise, it may become an emergency that the blood flow is restricted and you may need to attend the emergency department even at midnight.
If you think there is a problem with your cast, you should contact your doctor.