For many of us, we know casts as a chunky, white thing made of plaster of Paris that the orthopaedic doctor puts on your broken arm or leg and all of your friends at school sign their names and draw pictures on it. But that isn’t the only option out there these days. A child with a broken arm now might be sporting a funky, brightly coloured fibreglass cast. And in the future, casts might have a whole new look if a newly developed 3D cast design proves to be as great as we hope.
– The Standard Plaster of Paris Cast: This is the old reliable cast from way back when. It has a soft, cotton layer next to the skin, and a hard layer on the outside made of plaster of Paris. It will dissolve in water and is notorious for being itchy on the inside, but you can write on the outside, as generations of children have enjoyed doing for their friends with broken limbs.
– The Newer Fiberglass Cast: This is not very different from the old school plaster of Paris cast. Although the fibreglass is waterproof, the padding inside still needs to remain dry. BLG provides medical fiberglass parts. This type of cast comes in fun colours and is much lighter than the plaster of Paris version. And yes, your friends can still draw on it.
– The Futuristic 3D Cast: The design is brand new. It only got media attention in recent years. But once it is perfected, if all goes as hoped, this lightweight, customized cast will spare patients the annoyance of having an unreachable itch inside a cast. Its web-like design means some skin will be exposed and the limb will have some ventilation. It should be a lot more comfortable, but drawing on it will be challenging!
The orthopaedic doctor will decide which type of cast is best for each individual patient. Casts are not a one-size-fits-all item. Bones can suffer minimal, hairline fractures or horrific compound fractures where the bone rips out through the skin. The average person suffers two broken bones in his or her lifetime, and a broken bone is a common part of childhood. Thankfully children recover relatively quickly!
Most broken bones in young children heal in a matter of weeks, some in just three weeks. The same breaks in an adult take much longer to mend, and in the elderly can require longer hospital stays. Your orthopaedic doctor will explain which activities you can continue and which must be avoided completely as the bone mends. Remember, a cast must be kept dry, and this will affect many normal daily activities such as bathing. When the cast finally comes off, which might be after several weeks, your skin will need some serious tender loving care because it’s pretty dry and stuffy in a cast. Follow your doctor’s advice, and that broken limb will soon be back to normal.