PATIENT CAST CARE
Casts are used to help immobilize an injured part of the body after fractures, surgery, or other injuries. Splints are “half-casts” that immobilize the fracture, although not as rigidly as a full cast. Splints allow for swelling while immobilizing a fracture. They are usually used in the immediate post-injury or post-operative period, before changing to a cast.
Taking Care of your Cast
Keeping your cast in GOOD condition and as CLEAN and DRY as possible, will help your recovery and keep you as comfortable as possible.
Itching inside a Cast
Itching is a common yet frustrating problem for a person with a cast, especially during hot weather.
Care of the Patient in a Cast
Whenever possible, raise the body part enclosed in the cast ABOVE the height of your heart. This decreases the likelihood of excessive swelling of the tissues underneath the cast. Swelling is simply fluid that will “run downhill”, so it is important that the whole limb is elevated adequately. Elevate a leg cast on as much as possible throughout the day, and when in bed, with the foot higher than your knee, and the knee higher than your heart. Rest an arm cast as much as possible through the day, and on a pillow placed on the chest when is bed, elevating the hand higher than the elbow, and the elbow higher than your heart.
No matter how carefully the injured tissues are handled and no matter how expertly the cast is applied, it is still possible for excessive swelling to occur under the cast. If this happens, one or more of the following will probably become noticeable:
If any of these signs or symptoms occur, the treatment is the same. ELEVATE the limb above the height of your heart. Contact your doctor if these signs or symptoms do not go away after a prolonged period (1-2 hours) of ADEQUATE elevation. It is possible and likely that swelling fluctuates throughout the day depending on the body position that you are in.
Infection Inside a Cast
Sometimes the injured area becomes infected during healing. Detecting the infection in the early stages may be difficult if the infected area is covered by a cast. Infection should be reported immediately to your doctor. The following are common signs and symptoms of infection:
Remember that “itching” with any type of object under the skin, increases the chance of infection.
Bathing with a Cast
You may find bathing difficult when wearing a cast. The cast must be kept dry at all times, so do not take showers. If the cast is on a limb, such as your arm or leg, you may take tub baths with the casted extremity propped up on the side of the tub or a chair, out of the water. If the cast is on the trunk of the body, you should take sponge baths until the cast is removed. Use durable plastic bags and elastic bands to help keep your cast dry. You may also consider purchasing a “cast protector” or “cast shower bag” from your local pharmacy.