Modern-day casts are made from one of two kinds of material: fibreglass or plaster. Fibreglass casts are lighter and come in a variety of colours, according to the website Kids Health.org. Your doctor will determine the best casting material for your situation. Removing a cast yourself is not a smart idea. A doctor will have the proper equipment to evaluate the strength of the bone protected by the cast, as well as the specific tools needed to cut the fibreglass.
Put goggles and a mask on yourself and the person wearing the cast. This will prevent fibreglass particles from damaging the surface of the eyes or entering the lungs.
Ask the patient to sit or lie down in a comfortable position on a long table. You need access to the cast, and it may take some time to remove the cast. Instruct the patient not to shift during the removal.
Turn on the cast saw and grasp it near the blade. Hold the saw in your hand so it feels balanced. Slide your index finger over the top, the area opposite the blade, to control movement of the tool.
Begin cutting at the proximal end of the cast, or the end of the cast that is closest to the core of the body, as recommended by the Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster. Move the saw down the length of the limb, ending at the distal end, or the end closest the extremities. When you feel the blade break through the fibreglass wall of the cast, lift the blade up and pull it forward, keeping inside the cut groove line.
Repeat the process on the opposite side of the cast. Make the first cut along the top of the cast and the second on the bottom. The patient may have to move to give you access to the bottom of the cast. The two cuts should run parallel to each other.
Insert the cast spreader into one of the grooves and pull its handles apart to pop off the cast. The spreader will split the fibreglass from the lining, so the fibreglass can be pulled off. You may need to insert the spreader in several key areas along the groove if the cast is thick or long.
Use scissors to cut off the stockinet liner under the fibreglass. If removing a forearm cast, start cutting near the patient's fingers and move up towards the elbow. Pull the casting material and netting away from the patient once the cast opens fully.
Cut off the cotton padding that encircles the area under the cast. Discard the cast and all material immediately. Handle the cast as little as possible to avoid spreading dust into the air.
Wash the patient's skin with soap and water to remove residue from the cast. Apply a moisturiser to the clean skin.
Cast saws have the ability to cut the fibreglass without cutting skin; a cast saw, by design, will not cut soft tissue.
Never attempt to remove a cast with household tools, such as a hacksaw. This will undoubtedly cause further injury to the patient and to you. Only use medical tools designed for cast removal. Do not remove a cast until a doctor states the healing is complete. This may rebreak the bone. Check the patient's skin under for fibreglass slivers that may embed there. Pull the slivers out with tweezers.
Tips and warnings
- Cast saws have the ability to cut the fibreglass without cutting skin; a cast saw, by design, will not cut soft tissue.
- Never attempt to remove a cast with household tools, such as a hacksaw. This will undoubtedly cause further injury to the patient and to you. Only use medical tools designed for cast removal.
- Do not remove a cast until a doctor states the healing is complete. This may rebreak the bone.
- Check the patient's skin under for fibreglass slivers that may embed there. Pull the slivers out with tweezers.
Things you need
- 2 pairs of safety goggles
- 2 face masks
- Long table
- Medical cast cutter
- Cast spreader
- Body lotion