Home Therapies Plaster cast: when is it necessary?

Plaster cast: when is it necessary?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 288 views

plaster cast is a firm support bandage made of plaster, which is used to stabilize body parts externally. It is used, for example, for broken bones, tendons and ligaments torn. The injured parts of the body are immobilized with the help of a plaster cast, which supports the healing process. Read everything you need to know about the plaster cast, how it is applied and the risks involved.

What is a plaster cast?

Plaster casts are among the conservative treatment methods for broken bones, torn tendons and ligaments and for correcting misalignments. With the help of the plaster cast, the doctor immobilizes the affected body region – this supports the body’s own healing process.

A plaster cast consists of what is known as an underlay (usually made of a cotton material), padding, a hard layer of plaster of paris and a covering. Depending on its shape, a distinction is made between:

  • Closed or circular plaster (round plaster): The plaster encloses the entire circumference of the extremity.
  • Split gypsum (split gypsum): For this purpose, a closed gypsum is cut lengthwise after hardening.
  • Plaster splint: The cast covers only part of the limb.
  • Plaster corset (torso cast): The cast extends from the thorax to the pelvis and stabilizes the spine .

The classic plaster cast consists of lime plaster. In the meantime, this has been replaced by modern synthetic plaster (cast bandages), which weigh less, harden more quickly and are water-repellent.

When do you put on a plaster cast?

Plaster casts are an aid in conservative treatment and are used for the following clinical pictures:

  • uncomplicated bone fractures (fractures), ie bone fractures in which the fracture point is not displaced and no bone splinters have formed
  • strains
  • tendon and ligament tears
  • inflammatory bone and joint processes
  • Spinal curvature ( scoliosis )
  • Clubfoot (a so-called correction plaster is applied here)

How do you put on a plaster cast?

Both doctors and appropriately trained nursing staff can apply a plaster cast.

First, the doctor checks the skin for infections or pressure points, cleans it and applies cream. Depending on the clinical picture, the affected body part is held at a certain angle when the plaster cast is applied.

A protective layer is then placed directly on the skin. It consists of an underlay made of elastic cotton material and an overlying layer of padding wadding. Areas that have to withstand a lot of pressure can be padded with an additional layer of cotton. A layer of crepe paper compresses the underlay and cotton wool and prevents plaster from coming into contact with the skin.

Before putting it on, the plaster bandages are briefly dipped in cold water and squeezed out. Then the doctor wraps the arm or leg from farther (distal) to nearer (proximal) and without tension. He smoothes each plaster bandage after it has been put on so that the individual layers nestle against each other and the extremity and no wrinkles form.

In addition, so-called longuettes can be integrated – multi-layer bandage strips that support like a splint and give the plaster cast additional stability. The ends of the underlay and the upholstery are not wrapped, but folded over at the end and fixed with another plaster bandage. This creates a padded edge. All in all, the finished plaster cast can be reworked and corrected for about five to ten minutes.

If the cast is put on immediately after an injury or surgery, it is important to cut (split) the cast lengthwise to prevent tissue damage from swelling. The final step is a cover that protects the plaster cast from dirt.

After about two days, when the cast has dried, the doctor examines the limb for skin color, temperature and swelling and asks about pain, numbness and mobility.

What are the risks of a plaster cast?

Correctly applied, a plaster cast stabilizes the affected part of the body and prevents it from moving. As a result, muscles can shrink, muscle mass decreases (muscle atrophy), and joints also become increasingly stiff. The pressure from the bandage slows blood flow to the underlying tissue and increases the risk of thrombosis — meaning blood clots can form and possibly narrow or block a vessel. By elevating the extremity and moving it regularly, you prevent such thrombosis.

If the cast is wrapped too tightly or if the pressure increases due to swelling, pressure damage can occur. Typical symptoms of this are pain, blue or white discoloration of the skin or tingling, circulatory and sensory disturbances and loss of movement.

If thrombosis or pressure damage is suspected, the bandage is removed immediately.

What do I have to consider after a plaster cast?

If you experience pain, throbbing, tingling, or numbness in the extremity immediately after the cast is applied or later, you should call your doctor. Increasing mobility restrictions or cold, blue or pale skin are also warning signs that you should inform your doctor about. Have your doctor show you where to feel your pulse.

If the plaster cast is no longer needed, the doctor cuts it open with a plaster cutter. This special tiller cannot cause any injuries due to its shaking movements. You may feel heat build up on your skin. The cut plaster is then spread open with a plaster spreader, and the individual layers are cut open with bandage scissors. The plaster cast is now carefully removed. Then the skin underneath is cleaned and creamed.

If the plaster cast served to treat a fracture, the doctor checks the healed fracture using an X-ray. He may then prescribe physiotherapy exercises to restore full mobility of the affected body part.

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