The purpose of your cast is to keep your injury from moving so there is less pain and to promote
healing. Most casts are made of fiberglass. Splints have the same goals, but allow more room
for swelling just after an injury happens. Most splints are made of plaster.
What should I expect when the cast is put
Stockinette, a sock-like material, will be put
over your injured limb. Stockinette is used
to provide a cushioned finished edge to your
cast. Next a soft cotton material (Webril®)
is wrapped in layers around the Stockinette.
Gauze rolls of fiberglass or plaster are then
applied and molded to the shape of your
injured limb. The casting material will
begin to feel warm as it is put on. For the
cast to harden, a chemical reaction occurs
that results in the warmth you feel. This will
not burn your skin. No matter what material
is used for your cast, it will harden and set in
5 to 10 minutes.
How do I care for my cast?
Avoid getting your cast wet. The cast
material may soften and weaken or come
apart. The cotton under the cast is very
hard to get dry. Wet Stockinette or
padding can cause your skin to
breakdown. If your cast gets wet, use a
hair dryer on low setting to dry your
cast. Do not hold the dryer in one spot
too long or it will burn the skin. If the
cast is saturated, contact the orthopedic
clinic to arrange for a cast change right
We strongly suggest that you take
sponge baths while you are wearing a
cast or splint. If you are allowed to
shower or take a bath, use a plastic bag
placed over your cast to help keep your
cast dry. The plastic needs to be tightly
secured above the cast. You may try
double bagging the cast for extra
Do not rest your cast in one position
against hard surfaces for longer than 30
minutes because pressure can occur and
your skin may breakdown.
Raise your injured limb above the level
of your heart as much as possible. This
will help to reduce the swelling and pain
in the first few days. Use pillows to
prop your limb. Do not rest or prop your
leg on your heel. This helps to prevent
heel sores. If possible, try to keep your
cast raised even while you sleep.
Apply ice for the first 48 – 72 hours after
your cast is applied. Loosely wrap an
ice pack wrapped in a thin towel around
your cast. Apply ice to the cast – not the
skin – for 20 minutes every 2 hours
while you are awake. This helps to
Do not scratch under the cast with any
sharp object. This may cause skin
irritation or sores you cannot see. Use
an oversized sock as a toe warmer or
Wiggle your fingers and toes. Exercise
increases your circulation. This will
help reduce swelling and promote
healing. It will not harm or change your
If you have rough edges on your cast,
use a nail file to file them away or pad
the edges with moleskin.
Use a fan or hair dryer, set on cool, to
keep your cast dry and comfortable. It
will also help relieve itching.
What warning signs should I watch for?
Numbness or tingling, cold or
blueness or extreme paleness of
fingers or toes. If this occurs, elevate
your injured limb. If there is no
improvement, call the doctor.
Extreme pain. If this occurs, call your
doctor right away.
Swelling of your injured limb that
makes your cast feel too tight. If
swelling occurs, raise that part to the
level of your heart. Put an ice bag over
the cast. Make sure the ice bag is
wrapped in a towel to protect the cast
from wetness. It is normal for your
injured arm or leg to swell when it is
hanging below the level of your heart,
but raising it should improve this.
Loss of movement in your fingers or
toes. Wiggle your toes and fingers to
Loose fit that allows the cast to slide
around. A loose cast can cause skin
irritation. Call your doctor.
Breakage or damage to your cast. If
your cast is damaged, keep your injured
part as still as possible. Call the doctor
What should I expect when the cast is
Your cast will be taken off with a special
saw. It has a vibrating blade that moves
back and forth rather than spinning. The
saw is attached to a vacuum cleaner that
sucks up the dust. You will only feel some
vibration and pressure from the movement
of the saw. After the cast is taken off,
expect your injured limb to look smaller
because your muscles were not used.
Expect your skin to be dry and flaky. Use a
skin lotion or bath oil to soften and remove
dead skin once you are allowed to bathe. If
you have an incision, do not use lotion or
bath oil near it.
Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30 p.m., Orthopedic Clinic: (608) 263-7540.
Pediatric Orthopedic Clinic: (608) 263-6420
Nights and weekends, either number will give you the paging operator. Ask for the orthopedic
resident on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call
Spanish Version of this HFFY is #7784
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©7/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7075.