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Types of Casts and Splints: Their Uses and Proper Care

There are numerous types of casts and splints, but all perform the same essential function: immobilizing an area of the body and supporting the muscles in that area to reduce pain and swelling, and help injured bones heal. Which a physician chooses to use for a patient depends on the type of injury, where on the body it is located and how the doctor anticipates the healing process will go.

Casts

Casts use a hardened layer of plaster in circumferential fashion – meaning they go all the way around the affected area. They are used when the physician wants to wrap the area fully to completely immobilize it. However, casts do not allow for a lot of swelling in the initial, or “acute,” healing phase.types of casts and splints

Casts may be applied to arms, legs, knees, elbows, ankles, feet and hands. To care for them, keep them dry and clean. Do not alter the cast or stick things in it, and keep an eye out for cracks.

Splints

Splints use a hard layer that is wrapped onto the body with gauze or another material rather than cast onto it. Because splints do not wrap around the affected area, they accommodate more swelling and better healing for some injuries. Splints are also easier to put on and take off, which makes them better suited to minor issues.

The care of splints is similar to casts: keep them dry and clean and do not remove them before the doctor says you should.

Factors in Choosing a Cast or Splint

Location: Where on the body the injury is located factors into whether a cast or splint will be used. For instance, some areas are hard to fully cast, such as fingers, in which case a partial cast or splint may be used.

Healing: How the injury will heal affects which choice a physician makes, because if there’s a lot of swelling, a cast may not be the ideal choice.

Injury: Some injuries don’t need a full cast. For instance, if a bone is not broken, a cast is not necessary. If a bone is not broken, for instance, casting is unusual. In the case of strains or sprains, a splint is more common.

Hopefully, these tips will help you properly care for a cast or splint. If you need more information, feel free to contact Southeast Orthopedic Specialists for further cast and splint advice or further help.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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John Redmond, MD

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