Patients may have a cast placed for a traumatic injury, fracture, sprain or following surgery. The cast placed by your provider could either be made of fiberglass or plaster material.
There are many important pearls to remember when a cast has been placed as part of your treatment that prevent delays in healing or further complications. For example, the cast must remain dry at all times unless noted to be made of “water-tolerant” material. This will be discussed when the cast is placed by your provider.
One of the most popular questions that arise is “How am I ever going to shower with this new cast?” Since the cast needs to remain dry at all times, it is recommended to wrap the cast entirely in two plastic bags, then tape off the top and allow no water to enter the plastic bags. Helpful suggestions of the types of bags to use are bread loaf or newspaper bags for upper extremity casts and garbage bags for lower extremity casts. Another suggestion is to consider purchasing a shower safe cast bag at a local medical supply store.
Accidents do happen to us all and if you do get a little water on the cast, you can use a hair dryer on the cool setting to dry it out and to keep the underlying skin from getting infected if it were to stay wet or damp.
It is also important to keep the cast clean at all times as best as possible. Try to avoid dirt, soiling or anything else that would contaminate the cast. Remember, most casts are to be worn on average for 6 weeks! Also, avoid removing the padding underneath the cast. It is padded and visible for a reason and this padding must remain in place for the entirety of the cast treatment.
Although the cast is placed, it is important to inspect the integrity of your skin above and below the cast at all times. Remember to elevate the casted extremity above heart level as much as possible to reduce the risk of swelling during the entire treatment course.
Ice packs may still be used on top of the cast at the injury, fracture or surgical site to aide in pain relief keeping in mind to always keep the cast dry.
Warning Signs to remember when in your cast
After the cast has been placed and you feel an increase in pain and/or the feeling that the cast is too tight, you should contact your provider immediately. Another warning sign may be numbness and/or tingling in the affected extremity that does not resolve with changing position. Complaints of burning and/or a stinging sensation on the skin should also be shared with your provider.
A degree of swelling is not uncommon following cast placement, although excessive swelling below the cast that is seemingly worsening may be a warning sign as well. Any loss of active movement of fingers or toes of casted extremity is an absolute warning sign and your provider should be contacted immediately.
*Most of these problems can be avoided by elevation as recommended above*
And remember….it can always be worse!