History of Plaster of Paris immobilization
OrtthoHeal PVT. LTD.
May 6, 2017
Now a days it is commonly called as orthopedic cast, body cast, plaster cast, or surgical cast, is a shell, frequently made from plaster, encasing a limb (or, in some cases, large portions of the body) to stabilize and hold anatomical structures, most often a broken bone (or bones), in place until healing is confirmed.
Plaster of Paris has been used for centuries to treat fractures by immobilizing bones and allowing undisturbed healing.
Plaster bandages consist of a cotton bandage that has been combined with plaster of Paris, which hardens after it has been made wet. Plaster of Paris calcined gypsum (roasted gypsum), ground to a fine powder by milling. When water added, the more soluble form of calcium sulfate returns to the relatively insoluble form, and heat produced.
The setting of unmodified plaster starts about 10 minutes after mixing and is complete in about 45 minutes; however, the cast is not fully dry for 72 hours.
Nowadays bandages of synthetic materials often used, often knitted fiberglass bandages impregnated with polyurethane, sometimes bandages of thermoplastic. These are lighter and dry much faster than plaster bandages. However, plaster can be more easily molded to make a snug and therefore more comfortable fit.
During World War II, the incidence of pressure ulcers in young injured soldiers increased as a result of plaster body casts and immobilization splints. Plaster-of-Paris has been used for centuries to treat fractures by immobilizing bones and allowing undisturbed healing. For injuries to the spinal column it believed that plaster splints prevented hemorrhage and delayed contracture related to paresis. In World War II, plaster used on a large scale not only to stabilize fractures but also to facilitate safe evacuation of the wounded soldier by ambulance or train, therefore used in the evacuation hospital close to the site of battle as well as in the general hospital to prepare for the long journey home. The main goal was to relieve pain and prevent further damage to the fracture site, and decrease occurrence of secondary hemorrhage at the site of the fracture. At that time, Plaster immobilization applied in field conditions, often without the benefit of x-rays and by combat medics without training in orthopedics.
Photo courtesy: The New York Public Library. Surgeons and medics apply a plaster-of-Paris body cast on an injured soldier.