What is a Cast Brace?

J. Airman

A cast brace is a stationary or positionable support system for a broken bone bandage. Most cast braces run parallel to the broken bone to provide a protective structure and guide during the healing process. Modern cast braces are generally made from rigid and lightweight materials like plastic, aluminum, and titanium. Cast brace designs can be integrated directly into the cast or applied to the exterior of the bandage. Adjacent cast braces are often connected by a motion-limiting mechanical joint.

Many times a broken bone can be healed after setting in a cast for several weeks.
Many times a broken bone can be healed after setting in a cast for several weeks.

Orthopedic doctors and surgeons apply cast braces to bone fractures in soft and hard casts. Knowledge of the skeletal structure guides the physician in placing the important piece of orthopedic equipment. Cast braces are frequently placed along one or both sides of the broken bone once a layer of gauze padding has been applied. The braces may be removed and repositioned by the doctor during a checkup or after an x-ray. A high-quality metal cast brace can be sanitized and reused to set another broken bone.

Fiberglass fabric and plaster are often used to make custom-formed casts for people with broken bones.
Fiberglass fabric and plaster are often used to make custom-formed casts for people with broken bones.

Severe bone restructuring often requires pin setting a cast brace to the bone pieces. Pins are inserted into the bone and connected directly to the brace. The skin is often left uncovered or only lightly bandaged so the areas surrounding the protruding pins can be accessed for regular cleaning. These stand-alone cast brace styles sometimes include comfort features like foam padding and soft, adjustable neoprene straps.

A leg brace alone may be used on a broken limb until the swelling goes down enough for a cast.
A leg brace alone may be used on a broken limb until the swelling goes down enough for a cast.

Fiberglass fabric and plaster are often used to make custom-formed casts for people with broken bones. After weeks of wear, a cast may get damaged and provide less substantial support. The rigid cast brace retains its form to keep the position and fit for a longer period of time. Jointed cast braces are commonly used for injuries where a limited range of motion can speed the healing process. Some brace joints can be adjusted to a widening range of motion as physical therapy progresses.

A cast may be required after someone experiences a bad fall.
A cast may be required after someone experiences a bad fall.

The field cast brace or splint can be made quickly with just a couple straight sticks and a bandage. Camping first-aid guides often instruct campers to support a broken bone with something straight and rigid as soon as possible. Compound fractures, where bone is protruding from the skin, may require additional bandaging or a tourniquet prior to brace application to reduce blood loss. Soldiers in combat often carry all-in-one emergency bandages with plastic bracing built in. The temporary primitive supports can be removed as soon as professional medical attention is attained.

A cast can be used in conjunction with metal plates and bone screws.
A cast can be used in conjunction with metal plates and bone screws.
Casts are typically made of fiberglass.
Casts are typically made of fiberglass.

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