Types Of Casts Used On Broken Bones
Oops-a-daisy, you’ve managed to injure yourself badly, and the X-ray reveals that you have a broken bone or two. What is First Aid for a broken bone, and what cast types will the doctor give you to help protect your broken bones while they knit back together?
The Cast Types Available On The Market
Moon boots are used for third-degree ankle sprains, soft tissue injuries, fractures & post-operative use. They are lightweight yet heavy-duty and can be removed to shower and bathe. Moon boots have been designed specifically for leg injuries and allow the person to walk without crutches and can be used with crutches if required.
Plaster-infused bandages soaked in water have been the traditional form of plaster cast used for broken bone support and protection since plaster was discovered. Traditionally it comes in white and only white. It is heavy, hard, takes hours to dry, and quickly becomes smelly. In the past, having a broken bone and a white plaster cast was an invitation for all your friends and schoolmates to write on your cast and was considered a right of passage for children. These days, plaster casts are a rarity and have been replaced by lighter, cleaner, removable options that prevent the stench associated with traditional plaster casts.
Fibreglass casts entered the scene in the ’90s. The medical world quickly adopted them for their simplicity in application and fast drying time. They come in a range of colours and sizes that make them ideal for adding to First Aid kits for hikers and rescue crews.
Unlike their plaster cousin, fibreglass casts can enter the shower and are waterproof.
This feature meant that children could still swim and shower as normal. However, due to the padding under the fibreglass and above the arm, they too can begin to smell if not dried out correctly. While they have many advantages over plaster casts, they are not the holy grail. Like plaster casts, they require a specialised cutter to safely remove the cast when the time to remove the cast arrives.
Splint/ Back Slab:
Usually made up of either fibreglass, plaster or resin strips, a splint or back slab is a half cast that can be removed and is held in place with bandages. The split is designed to provide support and often immobility to allow the break to heal but can be easily removed to shower before being reapplied. This removes the old problem of the stench associated with the padding material in fixed casts and offers flexibility where the break allows this type of cast to be used.
Cast Brace material is made from a special plastic that comes in a range of thicknesses. This material is heated to become pliable and is then formed around the injury site for a custom fit. It is waterproof, pretty much indestructible to anything but heat, and is typically used for making splints, braces and back slabs.
The upside to this material is that it is set hard once it cools and the patient is ready to head home. The downside is that it can be fiddly to work with and takes more time to tailor-make each item than to have used resin strips or fibreglass.
What Cast Type Will I Get For My Broken Bone
No one cast fits all broken bones, and therefore the type of cast you get will be determined by:
- The injury
- The location of the injury
- The medical specialist
- Any existing factors or mitigating circumstances
- Cost factors
Cast types are largely determined by the bones broken, where they are on the body, what function they serve, and the patient’s age. The same injury might be treated with different cast types if the patient is a small child, and they need to limb to remain completely still for six-eight weeks while the bones repair. An adult, however, might only require a splint or back brace.
Orthopaedic surgeons who perform specialised surgeries will have their own material preferences that assist with the recovery plan for the patient. In some cases, where the breaks require screws, pins, staples and plates, or some kind of external construction, the patient may go through several different types of casts over a period of time.
Bone Cast Summary
Regardless of the material a cast is composed of, they all have a specific use and do a particular job. In this day and age, until a better material comes along, it is fairly safe to say that any break in children or young adults will typically be corrected with a fibreglass cast. The huge range of colours makes wearing a cast easier for the child when it comes in their favourite colour and is waterproof and lightweight.
Moon Boots are expensive and usually need to be purchased by the patient as an additional cost. However, for the sake of being able to remove the boot and bathe completely, in some cases, sleep without it at night, the advantages where cost permits are superior to a fixed cast. The medical practitioner will advise the patient on care and post-injury requirements for ambulation, exercise and weight bearing.
You Don’t Have To Have Broken Bones To Require A Splint Or Brace
You don’t need to have broken bones in order to require a brace or splint. Splints and braces can be used to support joints previously injured and weakened.
Osteoporosis can lead to thin and fragile bones not being able to support weight. A splint or brace might be ordered for use around the wrists and forearms to give the extra strength and support needed to do the basics, like lifting a full mug of coffee to the mouth or cutting food.
First Aid For Fractures
Taking a First Aid course will teach you everything you need to know about how to apply First Aid to a fracture. FACE is an accredited, registered training organisation specialising in First Aid courses. FACE courses are delivered in a range of formats. Click on our home page for course details and locations close to you. While there, check out our FACE Blog page for inspiration or motivation.