How can I care for a broken finger?
March 10, 2012 2:00 PM   Subscribe

How to keep a broken finger in a splint comfortable and clean...without moving the splint? Help please!

My boyfriend has another four weeks to go of wearing a plastic cast around his finger. We're trying to be careful this time, as the local emergency room doctor gave us a flat removable splint, and taking it off too soon caused the finger to heal improperly. If we mess this up, the finger will need to be reset with surgery. This new heavy duty orthopedic splint is a sort of tube that the finger goes in. It is held on with velcro and partially lined with foam which is up against the skin.

Do any mefites have experience with this type of splint? How do we clean it? How often can we take it off to air out the finger? Our usual routine is wiping down the finger and inside of the cast with alcohol wipes. Already, though, the velcro needs a serious cleaning. Plus his poor finger looks so uncomfortable it is almost painful to look at. The skin looks pale and irritated with a cut under the nail from rubbing the cast. I would wash it with some soothing soap but the doctor said not to move the finger.

I can't imagine another month of this and would love suggestions about how my boyfriend can get through wearing a finger cast more comfortably.
posted by kettleoffish to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
I'm not sure if I had the same sort of splint, but back when I hurt my finger playing basketball in elementary school, they gave me one that sounds like this. Are you able to rotate it at all? The skin where the splint covered my finger got gross, but rotating repositioned the points of contact so as to relieve irritation. As for actual cleaning, depending on the kind of material its made out of, can you boil it to kill bacteria? For comfort, you can add bandaids to the parts where its cutting him, using the padded area to cushion against sharp or easily irritated areas.
posted by fuzzysoft at 2:52 PM on March 10, 2012

Some of this you're just going to have to live with. Casts get grimy and yucky and disgusting. If you've ever had a fixed leg or arm cast on, they stink! The skin begins to look like pale, wrinkled troll flesh.

I wouldn't take the splint off more than once or twice a day and in very controlled circumstances--someplace clean and open, with him sitting, a place where he won't bump it on anything or anything will bump him--no pets, etc. Clean the splint with alcohol wipes and let dry well. Clean the finger by letting it soak for a short period of time in a warm soothing soak, rinse well, and then air dry. I'd have your SO dip it in a basin while sitting down so he doesn't accidentally bump it. You don't have to do this daily--he shouldn't be getting that dirty! I'm not so sure about putting a band-aide on the finger in terms of manipulating the digit. If you can do it without torquing the finger, and if it fits inside the cast without pressure on the cut, I'd say go for it. Alternatively, if he damaged the finger that badly, the cast might fit OK, but the finger is so swollen it's causing problems. Ice is your friend, and keep it elevated. Ice isn't a bad idea anyway. The cold will penetrate the cast if you give it time.

Your best bet for keeping the cast clean is to find something to cover it with. Will it fit into a cut off glove finger? Can you make a cute little 'cast cozy' of material to hide the yuch? Splints are hard to keep clean, so your best bet is to disguise it.

If the thing is just too uncomfortable, the icing doesn't bring down any swelling, or the finger keeps getting rubbed raw, I suggest going into your family care doc and getting another cast that fits. With my foot surgery, I wound up getting three casts on. We knew we'd have to change it out in about a week, but the foot swelled beyond belief, and it had to be done within 12 hours. My toes were an interesting shade of blue, and living with the cut around the instep for six weeks was seriously not fun.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:26 PM on March 10, 2012

Can you get another identical splint? I had eight weeks in a splint once in NYC in the summer, and I had to wear gloves for work (I have tips on that too, now, how to wear latex gloves over a splint). It was disgusting still, but having a second one, I could wash one and let it dry (the foam mostly) while wearing the other.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:27 PM on March 10, 2012

When I had finger surgery, my finger was wrapped in gauze under the splint (which was more for protection from bumping in my case). I wasn't allowed to take the gauze off for the first week. If I was doing something wet or messy I could put on a finger cot under the splint. You'll find these in the first aid aisle with the bandages, and wear out the tiny condom jokes in about 5 minutes.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:14 AM on March 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. I read these out to my boyfriend and we will definitely be trying some of the ideas. Mefi has the best advice!

If anyone reads this because they have a broken finger and they got here through Google, my condolences! Feel better soon.
posted by kettleoffish at 5:39 PM on March 12, 2012

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