Instructions for patients wearing a cast

Synthetic casts

If you have a synthetic (fiberglass) cast applied, you may put weight on your newly casted leg 30 minutes after it is applied, unless you are told otherwise by your physician.

To care for your synthetic cast, follow all instructions for plaster casts. If your cast should accidently become damp, it should be dried thoroughly with a blow dryer set on a cool setting. Failure to dry the cast completely may result in sores under your cast.

Plaster casts

To maintain your comfort and to assist in minimizing cast breakage due to misuse, please follow these guidelines.

  • Do not put weight on your newly casted leg for 48 hours, which is the appropriate time needed for the plaster to dry. Use your crutches!
  • Elevate your casted extremity (preferably above heart level) for 12 hours after it is applied.
  • Place your wet cast on a pillow or soft pad. Hard surfaces may dent wet plaster.
  • Do not use anything to scratch under the cast, as this may cause a sore.
  • Do not allow any small objects to fall down inside the cast, as this will irritate your skin.
  • Do not attempt to shorten or loosen your cast in any way, as this can cause serious problems.
  • If you are given a boot for your cast, wear it whenever you are walking. Failure to do so, even for short periods of time, can cause your cast to crack and soften.

Keep your cast dry

Whenever you shower, wrap your casted arm or leg with a plastic sack and fasten it securely beyond the upper edge of the cast.

If a tub bath is taken, your cast should not come in contact with the water. Do not attempt to clean your cast with any wet substance.

If you need to walk in the rain or snow, protect the cast with a plastic or waterproof covering or a cast shoe and use your crutches to keep your cast dry.

Notify your physician or the clinic nurse if you have any problems with your cast, especially if:

  • Your cast feels too tight or too loose, becomes broken or cracked, or if you feel painful pressure areas or rubbing beneath the cast.
  • There is marked swelling, tingling, pain, or numbness in the fingers or toes which is not relieved by elevation.
  • There is excessive odor present from your cast. (Perspiration odor from the cast is normal.)
  • You notice any extremely reddened skin or any bleeding or draining sore around the edges of your cast.
  • Your oral temperature rises to above 38.5 ° C (101.3 ° F).

Always call the clinic or physician first when you have a cast problem. Do not come to the clinic without an appointment.

For both leg casts, plaster or synthetic, always bring your crutches to each return appointment.

It is important that you return for your scheduled appointment, or that you otherwise notify the clinic. Thank you very much for your cooperation in following our suggested instructions.

To reach the Orthopedic Clinic between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, call 1-319-356-2377. During other hours, call 1-319-356-1616 and request the orthopedic resident on call.

Department of Nursing
Orthopedic Nursing Division
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

Last reviewed: 
July 2016

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