Is this the end for the plaster cast?
By Andy Coghlan Is that icon of medicine, the plaster cast, about to be superseded as the best way to heal a broken ankle? The latest evidence suggests that ankles may heal faster and better if patients are fitted instead with removable splints or braces that patients can take off daily. As a bonus, patients can regularly wash their ankles and relieve the itches that so irritate plaster-cast wearers. “Our review shows that using a removable splint and doing exercises could give up to 20% additional benefit in improving a patient’s mobility in the long term after an ankle fracture, compared to a fixed cast with no exercise,” says Christine Lin of the University of Sydney, Australia. The benefits are thought to arise mainly from the exercise, which strengthens the broken joint and keeps it supple. Lin cautions, however, that accidents can happen, especially if patients fail to replace the splint immediately after washing and exercise. Removable splints are at present available only for a minority of patients worldwide, and plaster casts do have the advantage of keeping the healing bones in compound or open fractures immobile. “I don’t think this is the end for the plaster cast,” says Lin. Journal reference: