Applying a cast is necessary to help a bone heal properly after it breaks. Casting isn’t something that you can just do at home; in most cases, you’ll need to see a doctor so that they can perform the procedure.
Casting involves several steps and equipment like a tubular stockinette, casting material, and a plaster splint, to name a few. In this article, you’ll learn more about what materials are used for casts, who can apply a cast, what equipment you’ll need to have on hand, how to apply a cast best, and how long it takes if you’re a medical professional looking to offer these services to your clients.
What are Casts Made From?
Casts come in various shapes and sizes and are made from different materials. The two most common materials used to create casts are fiberglass and plaster.
Fiberglass casting is fitted while the patient’s bone is still in position or if the healing process has already begun. A fiberglass cast is lighter and meant to be worn for a longer time. Fiberglass is also more breathable and requires much less maintenance than a plaster cast.
Today, a majority of casts are made from fiberglass. Though not a necessary perk, fiberglass also comes in various colors, making it easy to match any outfit.
Though fiberglass is much more common today, many patients still receive plaster casting. These plaster casts are used when a patient’s bone needs to be repositioned.
Plaster casts are used after a fracture reduction because the plaster can be molded to the patient, giving the bone more support than a fiberglass cast.
The only problem with plaster casting is that it is much heavier than fiberglass and cannot get wet. If the cast gets wet, the water will distort the cast shape and cause problems during the healing process.
Patients can become frustrated with these casts because of their weight and bulkiness.
Both fiberglass and plaster casting is wrapped over a few layers of cotton to protect the skin. Your patients must keep this cotton dry and clean for optimal comfort. Sometimes, you can speak to your medical provider about unique waterproof padding material that can replace cotton.
Who Can Apply a Cast?
Unless you’re medically trained, you won’t be able to apply a cast to yourself or others. There are a variety of medical professionals that can apply casting, including:
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Emergency room doctors
- Physician assistants
- Orthopedic technicians
- Nurse practitioners
Physicians may request that nurses apply or remove casts, while Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can perform a fracture reduction—this means they can set a broken bone.
Necessary Equipment for Casts
Before you prepare a cast for a patient, you will need a few important items. These supplies could include things such as the following:
- A tubular stockinette
- Casting material
- A plaster splint
- A large container of water.
- A sink fitted with a plaster trap.
- A linen-saver pad
- Sheet wadding
- Felt padding
- Rubber gloves
- Pain medication
- A Cast stand
- A sterile marker
You’ll want to make sure that your medical supplies provider has all of these items available so that you can give your patients the care they deserve.
Best Steps to Apply a Cast
Every medical professional may approach a casting in their way, but there are some common guidelines that a professional may follow. They go as follows:
- Make sure you review the doctor’s orders.
- Obtain informed consent documented in the patient’s medical records.
- Gather the necessary equipment and check casting packages for air leaks.
- Confirm a patient’s identity.
- Explain the procedure to the patient.
- Follow hand hygiene guidelines and wear gloves.
- Mark the procedure area.
- Mask the patient’s bed with linen-saver pads.
- Remove jewelry that may impede the casting.
- Observe the affected area and check for complications.
- Assess a patient’s vital organs.
- Evaluate the patient for signs of pain.
- Administer local anesthetics if a wound has opened up.
- Properly position and support the patient’s injured limbs.
Following these steps will ensure that the casting procedure goes smoothly and that the patient recovers as quickly as possible. Of course, the patient must also follow a doctor’s post-casting advice at home.
How Long Does it Take to Apply a Cast?
The time it takes to apply a cast depends on the material used. Plaster casting can take up to a day and a half to dry before it’s hard enough to support the patient’s weight. On the other hand, fiberglass casts may only take 20 to 30 minutes to apply.
Here are some average casting times for each material:
- Plaster: About 15 minutes to cool and 24 to 72 hours to dry.
- Fiberglass: About 10 to 15 minutes to dry and can bear weight after 30 minutes.
- Polyester-cotton: About 7 to 10 minutes to dry and can bear weight almost immediately.
Of course, every procedure is different, depending on how smoothly the application goes and the quality of the products used.
The Difference Between a Splint and a Cast
A splint is considered a “half-cast” and used to support the healing process for broken bones and fractures by holding bones together while they heal and fuse. Splints help keep a patient’s bones as straight as possible so that physical motions don’t worsen the injury.
Splints protect the body from further damage and reduce pain and swelling.
Splints are commonly used on a patient to treat:
- Simple or stable fractures
- Tendon injuries
- Soft-tissue injuries
Splints differ from casts because they aren’t used for definitive fracture management or complex fracture management; this is where a patient requires higher levels of stability and support from a cast.
Get Your Medical Equipment at Allied USA
If you’re looking for the best supplies to undertake casting procedures, look no further than Allied USA. We offer an array of medical supplies for your needs, whether that’s clinical laboratory equipment, orthopedic supplies, or things like housekeeping supplies.
Call us today or request a free quote online to see how we can buy out your current vendor’s contract!