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Broken bones are no joke. Injuries like breaks and fractures can have long-term effects if gone untreated and for children, they are that much more serious. Kids are known to horse around, rambunctiously playing without thinking about the consequences which can, unfortunately, lead to sustaining one of these injuries. Thankfully, casting and splinting have given us the ability to heal back to our healthy selves. They help to immobilize the injured limb to keep the bone in place until it fully heals. Of course, everyone has either had or knows someone who has needed a cast or splint, still, they are important to learn about just in case you or your child may need one someday.
Casts and splints are orthopedic devices that are used to protect, and support broken or injured bones and joints. Casts are usually made from fiberglass or plaster and splints are what you would call half-casts and provide less support than casts. Casts differ from splints because they supply more support and safety for a limb that is injured or broken.
Splints provide less support than casts, but the good thing is that they are faster and easier to use. Splints also can be tightened or loosened easily if the swelling in the arm or leg increases or decreases. Ready-made or “off-the-shelf” splints are available in many different sizes and shapes and in more unique cases, custom-made splints are required.
Simply put, casts and splints are used when a bone is broken and can also be used following orthopedic surgery. Sometimes splints are used immediately following an injury due to swelling of the injured area. After the swelling goes down, then a full cast might be applied to the injured limb. Sometimes a cast might have to be swapped during the healing process if the wounded area becomes less swollen and the cast gets looser. If this does happen, the cast might be replaced with a splint to provide more flexibility.
It may not seem important to know, but understanding the types of casts and splints that are available and what they are made of can not only improve your child’s healing process but can also potentially harm your child depending on if they have allergic reactions to specific chemical compounds.
Casts are partly made from fiberglass or plaster, which form the solid layer that protects the injured limb and keeps it restrained. Fiberglass has several advantages compared to plaster. It’s light, making the cast weight loss and comfortable. Fiberglass is the better choice in case the limb must be X-rayed during the healing process, and they are also available in a variety of colors that your child can choose from!
Your child’s cast may or may not be waterproof. The outside of most casts are made of waterproof fiberglass, but the inside liner must also be made of waterproof fabric in order for the cast to be waterproof. Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you which cast they have.
Typically, waterproof liners are breathable, and they transfer moisture away from the skin by letting water pass through and drain out which allows air to go into the cast and dry the skin.
Non-waterproof liners are used if your child is allergic to the waterproof liner. These will soak up water and take much longer to dry.
It’s important to investigate problems with blood circulation in the injured limb. A good strategy to use is checking the fingers or toes of the injured limb every day. The fingers or toes should have no swelling or changes in skin color. If you press on a nail bed until it turns white, the color should return to normal within 3 to 4 seconds after you take your finger off the nail. The fingers and toes should not be pale or bluish the temperature of the fingers and toes should feel warm. Also, check the skin around all edges of the cast each day for red, dry, swollen, cracked, blistered, or bleeding areas.
Your healthcare provider will remove the cast with a special cast saw when the bone has healed appropriately. The cast saw has a flat, rounded metal blade that vibrates. But don’t worry! The saw can cut through the cast without injuring the skin underneath. Your child’s physician will then cut the cast in several places, usually along both sides of the cast. After this, the cast will spread and open and a special tool is used to lift it off. Scissors are used to cut through the protective padding and stockinette layers which then are removed.
Complications can range from minor to severe and may vary according to the length of time that the cast is worn. It is best to speak to your child’s healthcare provider if you feel that the cast or splint is causing them harm.
Pressure sores are one injury that may occur. These are sores that develop on the skin under the cast. This can happen because the cast was too tight or did not fit correctly, causing excess pressure on one area.
There is also something called Compartment Syndrome. This is a complication caused by a tight or rigid cast that constricts a swollen limb. When the pressure inside the cast builds, it can cause damage to the muscles, nerves, or blood vessels in the space covered by the cast. The damage may be permanent if it is not discovered and treated promptly. Call your child’s healthcare provider or visit the emergency room immediately if you notice that your child has numbness or tingling in the affected limb, cold or pale skin, burning or stinging, or increased pain or swelling.
Even though we live in a world where your child can receive a cast or splint and make a full recovery, it is still important to promote safe play and educate them on how to protect themselves. Kids love to mess around and sometimes that leads to an injury, but this is no reason for them not to still be their energetic selves. The good news is that if your child does wind up needing a cast or splint, the experts at Chai Care will always be here to supply your little one with a perfectly mounted cast or splint!
* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.Jan 30, 2023
It is every parent’s worst nightmare to see their child with an injury, especially when it is something as serious as a fracture or dislocation. These are extremely common childhood injuries because young children have bones that are growing and are not yet fully developed, making them more fragile than adult bones. Because of this, it is paramount to understand the best ways how to keep your youngster safe, as we all know how adventurous and energetic kids can be. However, there are some important differences between a fracture and a dislocation that are crucial to know so as not to confuse the two.
Simply put, a fracture is a term used for a broken bone. They can occur in any bone of the body, but the most common fractures in children are in the wrists, arms, and elbows, which usually occur after a fall in most cases, the injury will heal well and cause no long-term complications.
Older children will usually be able to tell you where they are in pain and can explain what exactly happened to better understand the situation. This can make it easier to identify if the injury is in fact a fracture or potentially something more significant. It can be more difficult to identify a fracture in infants or toddlers due to their lack of communication skills. They may cry and not use the affected area, rather than articulate what they are feeling.
A dislocation is a joint injury. It occurs when the ends of 2 connected bones come apart. Fortunately, it is not common in younger children! This is because their growth plates are weaker than the muscles or tendons. Growth plates are the areas at the end of long bones where the bones grow, making them more common in teens and adults.
A dislocation happens when extreme force is put on a joint. It can occur if your child falls or takes a hit to the body, such as while playing a contact sport. It’s important to note that when a dislocation occurs, ligaments can be torn—these being flexible bands of fibrous tissue, joining various bones and cartilage. They also bind the bones in a joint together. The hip and shoulder joints, for example, are called ball and socket joints. Lots of force on the ligaments in these joints can cause the head of the bone (ball) to come out of the socket partly or fully. The most dislocated joint is the shoulder.
Now that we know what both a fracture and a dislocation are, it’s time to discuss how we go about treating them.
In most cases, if your child has a fracture, they will need to restrict movement of the injury site to allow the bone time to heal. Some fractures may require a splint or a partial cast, held in place with bandages. A splint or partial cast helps to support the injured area, allowing the bone to rest and heal while also providing your child pain relief. A splint or partial cast generally does not have to be worn for as long as a full cast. Casts are required for three weeks to three months depending on the type and location of the injury – your healthcare provider will estimate how long it will be required.
If the injury has caused the bones to move out of place, your healthcare provider will need to move the bones back into the correct position which is known as a “reduction.” These procedures are usually done under sedation or anesthesia in the emergency department or operating room. Fractures that require a reduction will need a full plaster cast (one that wraps around the limb) to allow the injury to heal. Full plaster casts stay on your child for up to three months, depending on the injury.
Treatment for a dislocation will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the injury is; however, all dislocations need medical care right away to prevent additional injury because untreated dislocations can lead to serious problems. One of the most common forms of treatment is R.I.C.E. which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the dislocated area. Other forms of treatment would be casting, splinting, repositioning, and in serious cases, surgery.
Whether it be a fracture or a dislocation if your child was wearing a cast and once it has been removed, your child’s skin may be dry and itchy. Bathe the skin with warm soapy water, and apply a plain, non-perfumed moisturizer.
After a fracture, children normally regain strength by engaging in gentle activity and play. Physiotherapy is usually not needed. Your healthcare provider will give your child specific advice about when and how they can return to sport, in most cases four to six weeks later. If your child had surgery, full-contact sports should be avoided for two to three months, but you should discuss this with your child’s healthcare provider.
It is highly probable that at some point your child is going to face one or possibly both injuries. Rather than looking at it as a negative thing, it’s better to see it as a sign that your child is a typical kid who is active and enjoys playing with their friends. When that day does arrive, you can be your child’s hero by understanding the signs, symptoms, and methods on how to take care of them, but even with your newfound knowledge, the experts at Chai Care will always be here to help!
* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.