Efficiency and Safety: The Best Time to Valve a Plaster Cast

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The act of applying, univalving, and spreading a plaster cast to accommodate swelling is commonly performed; however, cast saws can cause thermal and/or abrasive injury to the patient. This study aims to identify the optimal time to valve a plaster cast so as to reduce the risk of cast-saw injury and increase spreading efficiency.


Plaster casts were applied to life-sized pediatric models and were univalved at set-times of 5, 8, 12, or 25 minutes. Outcome measures included average and maximum force applied during univalving, blade-to-skin touches, cut time, force needed to spread, number of spread attempts, spread completeness, spread distance, saw blade temperature, and skin surface temperature.


Casts allowed to set for ≥12 minutes had significantly fewer blade-to-skin touches compared with casts that set for <12 minutes (p < 0.001). For average and maximum saw blade force, no significant difference was observed between individual set-times. However, in a comparison of the shorter group (<12 minutes) and the longer group (≥12 minutes), the longer group had a higher average force (p = 0.009) but a lower maximum force (p = 0.036). The average temperature of the saw blade did not vary between groups. The maximum force needed to “pop,” or spread, the cast was greater for the 5-minute and 8-minute set-times. Despite requiring more force to spread the cast, 0% of attempts at 5 minutes and 54% of attempts at 8 minutes were successful in completely spreading the cast, whereas 100% of attempts at 12 and 25 minutes were successful. The spread distance was greatest for the 12-minute set-time at 5.7 mm.


Allowing casts to set for 12 minutes is associated with decreased blade-to-skin contact, less maximum force used with the saw blade, and a more effective spread.

Clinical Relevance:

Adherence to the 12-minute interval could allow for fewer cast-saw injuries and more effective spreading.

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