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Emergency Department Discharge Instructions

Broken bone with a splint

Emergency Care Discharge Instructions

Instruction summary

If you came to the ER with a broken bone, most likely you were put in a splint instead of a full cast. The reason for this is that broken bones can cause a lot of swelling (which will go down over time). A full cast, which goes all the way around the limb, can cut off the circulation to the area as it swells. Splints hold the bones together, the same way that a cast does, without cutting off the circulation if swelling occurs. A splint allows the bones to heal properly and it provides comfort because the broken bones can’t move around or shift anymore.

Ibuprofen (which is the same thing as Advil or Motrin) and/or acetaminophen (same thing as Tylenol) can be used for pain relief. Taking both of these medications together is fine – just be sure to follow the instructions on the label for each.

The most important thing that you can do to speed up healing is to keep the limb with the broken bone elevated. If it is your arm, hold your arm up (like you are the queen and about to wave at your subjects) so that gravity can drain the swelling away from the broken bone. If it is your leg, you can prop your leg up on a chair whenever you are sitting down, and use pillows to elevate your leg when you are sleeping.

If you have a sling, make sure you have the sling on properly so that your arm isn’t dangling downward (since gravity will move the blood toward the injured bones and increase the swelling). Feel free to take your arm out of the sling from time to time, and make circles with your arm. The sling is just a reminder to keep your arm up as much as possible, instead of letting it dangle down.

Remember to keep your plaster or fiberglass splint dry. Do not get it wet because it will smell, and it can fall off if it gets wet. If you have been given crutches, use them as you were instructed.

If you were put in a full cast and you find that you are having lots of constant pain, and your fingers are going numb or turning blue, this may mean that your circulation is getting cut off. In that instance, elevate the limb and return to the ER to have your cast opened.