Splint & Cast Bandages
Splint and Cast Supplies
Cast vs. SplintUnsure about the difference between a cast and splint?
A cast surrounds an injury, like a broken bone or sprain, to support and immobilize it as it heals. Casts consist of fiberglass or plaster, and application and removal are done in a doctor’s office.
A splint, on the other hand, is used more often on fractures, tendon injuries, and other soft-tissue injuries. Instead of surrounding the injured area like a cast, the splint supports the joint or injury on one side. It is usually more temporary than a cast. Some splints and splint materials are available over the counter, such as finger splints or arm slings.
Cast and Splint MaterialsThere are a variety of cast and splint materials to choose from. Fiberglass casts are light, breathe well, and are more desirable if the injured area needs to be X-rayed during the healing process. The material is more malleable, so it's better for awkward angles, too. Plaster takes longer to dry and set, whereas fiberglass sets pretty quickly.
Splints can also be made of fiberglass, or, in the case of finger splints, thin, pliable metal. They can also be made of fabric, like arm slings.
Both fiberglass and plaster casting materials should be kept dry. A wet plaster cast can dissolve, irritate the skin underneath, and in the worst cases, even break. A fiberglass cast or splint is technically waterproof, but the padding underneath is not, so it is best to keep them dry as well. Shower rather than taking baths, and wear a protective plastic sleeve or bag to protect the wounded area.
Cast PaddingBefore applying a cast, cast padding is often used to cover the skin. Made of polyester or cotton, padding is often doubled up to pad sensitive areas like joint and bone protrusions such as wrists, ankles, and elbows to prevent rubbing and irritation once the cast has been applied.
In the case of an open wound or compromised skin under the cast surface, sterile cast padding is used. Non-sterile cast padding works well for standard casting applications. Cast padding is available in multiple sized packages, depending on whether you will need to apply a single cast or use it for several instances of casting.
Casting Tape and Plaster BandagesFiberglass casting tape actually makes up a fiberglass cast and comes in a variety of colors. At least two layers of fiberglass tape are needed to form a cast, so choose how much casting tape you need by the size and area the cast will cover. Not only is fiberglass lighter, more durable, and breathable than plaster, X-rays of the area are also possible without removing the cast.
Plaster cast bandages are heavier and denser than fiberglass. They are extremely durable and cheaper, and are often used for leg and arm casts that need to stay on for a longer period of time before being removed.
Splint Roll FiberglassSplint roll fiberglass shares characteristics with fiberglass casting tape, but it is designed for creating splints rather than casts. It generally incorporates some padding, is reversible, and requires only a small amount of water to activate the hardening process.
Never apply a cast without the direct supervision and direction of a medical professional. While temporary splints can be applied in a field situation, more permanent support should be applied by a medical or training professional as soon as possible following the injury.
Be sure to watch the area for swelling, report any numbness or lack of sensation, coldness, or discoloration. Never use any object to scratch under the cast. It can affect the integrity of the skin and even cause serious infection, and compromise healing.