Casts and Splints

Also known as: orthopedic casts and splints, casting, splinting, half-casts.

What are casts and splints?

Cast and splints are orthopedic medical devices that are used to hold broken bones in position while they heal themselves.

  • Casts are more rigid devices made from fiberglass or similar materials that provide more support and are not intended to be removed once in place.
  • Splints are typically a readily available item off the shelf that are tightened or loosened using Velcro straps. They are less supportive than a typical cast.

What happens during the treatment?

Before a cast is created, a protective sleeve called a stockinette is placed around the area, followed by a layer of soft padding that is cotton or a similar material. Then strips of moistened fiberglass or plaster are wrapped around the area to form the cast. The material most often used for casts dries within minutes to a hard, rigid surface. The cast typically remains on for several weeks as the bone heals.

With splinting, the sprained or fractured limb is secured within the pocket of the splint. Then, the straps are tightened and secured in order to immobilize the affected limb and promote healing.

Is any special preparation needed?

No special preparation is needed in order to use a cast or splint.

What are the risk factors?

Pressure sores are a possible complication that can result from a cast that doesn’t fit properly. And a severe complication called compartment syndrome can cause permanent nerve, blood vessel or muscle damage if the cast is too tight. It’s also important to care and clean the area around the cast properly according to your health care provider’s instructions.

It’s possible to aggravate an existing sprain or fracture if a splint is used improperly or is not sufficient to immobilize the injury for healing. 

Reviewed by: Avi Baitner, MD

This page was last updated on: April 09, 2021 02:34 PM

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