What happens after a cast comes off the ankle?

Individuals who have plaster casts on the ankle most likely suffered from a broken or severely fractured foot or ankle. After the doctor set the ankle in place, he used a cast to secure the foot and ankle in a fixed position that allowed the damaged bone to heal in a fixed position close to its natural composition.

After enough time for the bone to heal, the doctor removes the cast; this removal process involves cutting the cast into two pieces (or more, if need be) and pulling it away from the injured ankle. With the cast off, the patient may notice some unexpected differences in the ankle.

The Skin Looks Different

When a doctor applies a plaster cast to an ankle, he must enclose the entire ankle, the lower leg and part of the foot in the device. While this portion of the body remains inside the cast, it forgoes exposure to sunlight; this prolonged darkness may cause the skin to appear white or very pale when the doctor removes the cast. In addition, individuals who normally shave their legs lose access to the covered portions while the cast is in place, and the unshaven hair may grow thick and long. Finally, human skin continuously flakes off dead skin cells and replaces them with fresh, rejuvenated cells. Under normal conditions, these cells wash away in the shower or simply fall off during typical daily activities. While the ankle remains in the cast, though, these skin cells become trapped inside the plaster and may adhere to the skin. The combination of these effects may cause the skin around the ankle to appear dry, flaky, pale or even hairy when the doctor removes the cast.

The Bone Continues to Heal

The primary purpose of the cast is to keep the ankle in place while the healing process begins; as the cast keeps the ankle in place, new bone cells fuse the two portions of the ankle back together. Although the injured ankle heals considerably while in the cast, the process of cell rejuvenation continues well after the cast comes off. According to Bone and Spine.com, a health resource website, bones heal by bleeding from the broken area; although the initial leakage of the bone's fluid supply fuses the broken bone portions together within a couple of days, it may take weeks or even months for some individuals to experience a complete recovery. For this reason, doctors may instruct some patients to walk cautiously and avoid some exercises after removing an ankle cast.

Some Activities May Start Slow

When a doctor removes an ankle cast, the patient may require some amount of rehabilitation before engaging in exercise or strenuous activities. Depending on the extent of the injury, the doctor may prescribe physiotherapy as a way of speeding full recovery. If the doctor does not deem physiotherapy necessary, he may instruct the patient to start with very low impact exercises like walking, then slowly work up to more intense activities like running, jogging and sports. In some cases, the doctor may also prescribe special exercised designed to restore the injured ankle's full functionality.