Kids Health Info

Day surgery: Plaster cast - discharge care

  • For children going home after having a plaster cast put on in the Surgery Centre.

    Care

    It is important once your child goes home from hospital that their plaster cast is cared for correctly. The role of a plaster cast is to:

    • to keep the arm/leg in a certain position, or
    • to protect the area that has been operated on while it heals

    Elevate

    • Keep the limb in plaster raised above the level of the heart as much as possible.

    Arm

    • If your child has been given a sling, always use it to keep the arm up when your child is moving about. Rest the arm on pillows when your child is sitting or lying down.

    Leg

    • The leg can be propped up on pillows when your child is resting.
    • Make sure your child uses walking aids such as crutches or a wheelchair if you have been advised to do so.
    • Make sure your child has been taught how to use crutches safely, including going up and down stairs.

    Swelling

    • It is common to get some swelling of the fingers or toes around a plaster cast.
    • Check the cast carefully that it is not too tight and there is a gap.
    • Encourage your child to wiggle and move their fingers or toes often to help keep the blood flowing.

    Skin care

    • It is common for the skin under the cast to get itchy.
    • Don't put anything between the cast and the skin (ie do not use a ruler or knitting needle to scratch the skin under the cast). This can irritate the skin and cause an infection.
    • Do not use lotions, powders or oils under or around the cast.
    • Check your child's skin each day for any areas that seem irritated or uncomfortable.

    Cast care

    • Keep the plaster cast clean and dry at all times.
    • The cast usually dries completely in 48 hours. Allow it to dry naturally and keep it away from direct heat.
    • Avoid bumping or hitting the cast.
    • Do not paint the cast. This will close the pores of the plaster.

    Possible problems

    Poor blood supply or swelling in their fingers or toes:

    • The skin may look pale or bluish in colour.
    • The fingers or toes are cool or hot to touch.
    • Your child may say they have pins and needles or numbness.
    • Your child may not be able to move their fingers or toes.

    If these symptoms happen, raise the arm or leg above the level of the heart. If the symptoms are still there after 20 minutes, take your child to your nearest hospital emergency department. 


    Take your child to a doctor if:

    • They have severe pain.
    • The cast has become damaged in any way or if you notice any problems such as hot spots, damaged skin or a bad smell coming from the cast.

    Contact details

    • The name of your child's surgeon in the Orthopaedic Department is:  

      ________________________________________________________

    • The Royal Children's Hospital
      T: (03) 9345 5522 (24hrs)
      Ask for the on-call Orthopaedic Registrar if you are concerned about your child's care at home

    • Surgery Centre
      Monday to Friday 7AM - 7PM
      T: (03) 9345 6570

    Factsheet developed by the RCH Surgery Centre.  First published August 2005. Updated January 2012. 


Disclaimer 
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.