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AIM: To determine if complete, split casts and backslabs [plaster of Paris (POP) and fiberglass] generate different intracast pressures and pain. METHODS: Increased swelling within casts was modeled by a closed water system attached to an expandable bag placed directly under different types of casts applied to a healthy lower limb. Complete fiberglass and POP casts, split casts and backslabs were applied. Twenty-five milliliter aliquots of saline were injected into the system and the generated intracast pressures were measured using a sphygmomanometer. The subject was blinded to the pressure scores to avoid bias. All casts were applied to the same right limb on the same subject to avoid the effects of variations in anatomy or physiology on intracast pressures. Pain levels were evaluated using the Visual Analogue Score after each sequential saline injection. Each type of cast was reapplied four times and the measurements were repeated on four separate occasions. Sample sizes were determined by a pre-study 90% power calculation to detect a 20% difference in intracast pressures between cast groups. RESULTS: A significant difference between the various types of casts was noted when the saline volume was greater than 100 mL (P = 0.009). The greatest intracast pressure was generated by complete fiberglass casts, which were significantly higher than complete POP casts or backslabs (P = 0.018 and P = 0.008 respectively) at intracast saline volumes of 100 mL and higher. Backslabs produced a significantly lower intracast pressure compared to complete POP only once the saline volume within casts exceeded 225 mL (P = 0.009). Intracast pressures were significantly lower in split casts (P = 0.003). Split POP and fiberglass casts produced the lowest intracast pressures, even compared to backslabs (P = 0.009). Complete fiberglass casts generated the highest pain levels at manometer pressures of 75 mmHg and greater (P = 0.001). Split fiberglass casts had significantly reduced pain levels (P = 0.001). In contrast, a split complete POP cast did not produce significantly reduced pain levels at pressures between 25-150 mmHg. There was no difference in pain generated by complete POP and backslabs at manometer pressures of 200 mmHg and lower. CONCLUSION: Fibreglass casts generate significantly higher intracast pressures and pain than POP casts. Split casts cause lower intracast pressures regardless of material, than complete casts and backslabs.

Original publication




Journal article


World j orthop

Publication Date





170 - 177


Backslab, Cast, Compartment syndrome, Fiberglass, Fracture, Lower limb, Plaster of Paris, Pressure