Cast Removal Anxiety: Fear the Cast Saw no More!
Cast removal can create anxiety for a patient. Patients are often in fear when they see a doctor come at them with a huge saw. But there is nothing to fear as the saw is designed with patient protection in mind. There are a couple of different ways that an orthopedic fiberglass leg or arm cast can be removed. The most commonly used tool is a cast saw. Additionally, you may see technicians use cast shears or ultra-sharp scissors.
Cast saws are uniquely designed so that they will not cut you. In fact, you can place your hand directly on the blade for a short period of time. The difference between a regular saw and a cast saw is the blade is a reciprocating blade verses an oscillating blade. So, it basically vibrates back and forth. Since the blade does oscillate back and forth it can become hot and potentially burn the patient. Which is why you will see the cast technician use an up and down motion when cutting. This allows the blade to cool between cuts. These can be purchased, but typically only doctors use them.
Another way to protect the patient is by using a Zipstick which adds a barrier between the patient and the cast saw. Using this type of tool can be especially comforting for a kid or adult who is seeing a sharp blade getting too close for comfort.
I had the unfortunate experience to have a cast for a short period of time. When it came time for removal of the cast, I had no clue that the blades weren’t sharp. The cast technician came at me with this huge scary saw!
I spent the next couple of minutes trying not to have a panic attack. He assured me that the saw would not hurt me. After a few second, I was much calmer as he did a great job removing my cast. So, if a cast technician comes at you with a big saw, don’t be alarmed because they are well skilled in the process. The only thing that really scares you is the noise the saw makes, which is why it may be a good idea to bring some ear plugs or put on some noise cancelling ear phones to drown out the sound.
If you have a scared child who fears having the cast removed by a cast saw or wish for an alternative, there is another option. Casting shears and cast scissors are a great option. Just make sure you are very careful if you choose to do this at home. And always check with your doctor before doing this, if you are unsure of anything.
The casting shears are used to cut through the fiberglass hard shell material of the orthopedic cast. They are blunt and will only break through the fiberglass. The shears will not cut through the padding and stockinette. It is also important to mention that while this is a great option it does take some effort to remove the cast using this method.
Casting Scissors are a cast technicians’ best friend as they need them to remove the cast padding and stockinette after using a cast saw or casting shears. These aren’t your ordinary scissors they are ultra-sharp and specially designed to cut through the padding and stockinette. The fiberglass is stuck to the padding and stockinette so as the fiberglass is pried apart, they will cut through the stockinette and padding. Releasing the patient from their cast. SWEET FREEDOM!
I have listed each step below for both methods of cast removal we discussed above.
Cast Saw Method:
First, they will begin by placing a Zipstick in between your arm and the cast.
Second, will then begin cutting through the fiberglass in a straight line using short up and down motions. The cast technician will do this on both sides, so you will have 2 long cuts in the cast so that it can be pried apart.
Finally, they will then begin opening the cast and cutting the stockinette and padding with the casting scissors. The last step is to carefully remove your arm from the cast, being super careful because there can be sharp edges.
Casting Shears and Scissors Method:
First begin by using the casting shears to break through the fiberglass material starting from the top of the cast working their way down in a straight line to the end of the cast. This will be done on both sides of the cast.
Next, you will then begin prying apart the cast as they cut trough the stockinette and cast padding.
The last step is to carefully remove your arm or leg from the cast avoiding any sharp edges.
I hope this helps you with any cast removal questions you had and gives you some basic instructions on how this is done. Hopefully this will alleviate any fears you may have had; so, you don’t end up like me thinking that your worst nightmare has come true.
View an example video of a cast removal: