The following is general information that may be helpful to you if you have been fitted with a cast or splint. It is important to take care of your cast or splint to minimize the risk of complications.
- Mild swelling of the injured area is the rule during the first few days to weeks. Swelling will make your cast feel tight initially. To reduce swelling, keep the cast above the level of your heart for 24 to 48 hours by resting it on pillows. Gently move your fingers or toes frequently to prevent stiffness.
- If you have been prescribed pain medication take it as scheduled and stay ahead of the pain. The medications take time to work so don’t delay taking medication for too long. After the first few days, you may be able to take a non-prescription pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Do not get the cast or splint wet. To bathe with a cast, cover the cast with a plastic bag, tape the opening shut (you may also use rubber bands), and put the cast outside shower area. Even when covered with plastic, you should not place the cast in water or allow water to run over the area. Waterproof cast covers are available at medical supply stores, but are not completely waterproof.
- If the cast becomes slightly wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer on the cool setting. Do not use the warm or hot setting because this can burn the skin. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to pull air through the cast and speed drying.
- Keep the cast clean and avoid getting dirt or sand inside the cast. Do not apply powder or lotion on or near the cast. Cover the cast when eating.
- Do not place anything inside the cast, even for itchy areas. Sticking items (such as hangers or pencils) inside the cast can injure the skin and lead to infection. Using a hair dryer on the cool setting may help soothe itching.
- Do not pull the padding out from inside your cast.
You will likely have a splint on your extremity after fracture surgery. This is a partial cast that is wrapped in a soft cotton layer with a strip of hard plaster running down one side of your arm or leg. The splint allows normal swelling without damaging the skin or tissue around your surgery site. Sometimes there will be a small bloodstain on the bandage especially near your surgical incision. This is normal. The splint is designed to wick blood away from your skin and out to the surface of the cast. Do not get the splint wet as this will cause the plaster to soften and the padding will stay wet. This can delay the healing process if it occurs. If you do get the splint damp, take a hair dryer on the cool setting and blow it into the wet area.
Color changes, temperature changes, throbbing and burning around the incisions can be normal, especially in the first few days.
When to Seek Help
- If there are sore areas or a foul odor coming from the cast, cracks or breaks in the cast, or if the cast feels too tight and does not respond to elevation.
- You develop swelling that causes pain or makes it so you cannot move your fingers or toes.
- The cast becomes soaking wet and does not dry sufficiently with a hair dryer or vacuum.
- If any of the above occur you may need to go the ER or the office if it is during business hours.