A History of Casts, from AquaCast® Liner Waterproof Cast Material

Casts have been used since ancient times to hold fractures in place while patients recovered from injuries and surgeries. In today’s post, we take a brief look at the way casts evolved from simple structures made of wood and linen, to the waterproof, washable options we have today. If you would like to learn more about AquaCast Liner and our line of orthopedic products, click here!

Ancient Beginnings

The archeological record tells us that many cultures used casts thousands of years ago. Ancient Egyptians used a primitive splint made of wood or bark, wrapped tightly in linen. Ancient Greeks used a similar solution, made of cloth bandages which were stiffened with wax and resin. The ancient Roman cast was much the same, although further stiffened with starch.

On the other side of the world, ancient Hindus treated fractures with bamboo splints, and Arabian doctors stiffened bandages with lime derived from sea shells, mixed with albumen from egg whites. For the next few thousand years, casts would stay pretty much the same.

Industrial-Age Innovations 

It wasn’t until the 1500s that French military surgeon Ambroise Pare developed a new type of cast, made of wax, cardboard, cloth, and parchment. This newer type of cast, simply called the Pare cast, would be used for the next few hundred years. However, while the Pare cast was an improvement over previous methods, it suffered from a very long dry time of about two or three days. Since casts were most often administered on the battlefield, to soldiers who needed to be moved quickly, this was not optimal.

These problems were addressed in 1851 by Antonius Mathijsen, a Dutch medical officer. Mathijsen took linens that had been soaked in plaster of Paris and wrapped them around the fractures, providing a snug and exact fit that afforded the patient much more mobility.

Waterproof Cast Liners

A big drawback of plaster casts was, and continues to be, that they cannot get wet without disintegrating. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for patients to shower and bathe. This in turn causes bacteria to build up underneath the cast, resulting in increased odor, skin irritation, and risk for infection.   

In 1860, Russian surgeon Nikolai Ivanovich Pirogov attempted to rectify this issue by painting the dried plaster of Paris with a mixture of shellac dissolved in alcohol. However, this only waterproofed the outside of the cast. Beneath the cast, patients still had to wear cotton padding, which absorbs water and collects sweat and odor over time.

Gore-Tex® and AquaCast

Finally, in the 1990s, there was another huge leap in casting technology. Cast manufacturers began to make lighter, cleaner casts out of synthetic materials like fiberglass, polyurethane, and thermoplastic. Then, innovators at W.L. Gore & Associates developed GORE-TEX®, a waterproof fabric that could be worn beneath a fiberglass cast. The waterproof materials allowed water to drain and evaporate quickly, improving the patient experience in multiple ways.

In 2012, W.L. GORE & Associates decided to discontinue their Procel® waterproof cast padding,  and AquaCast Liner began manufacturing a newer generation of the product.  This improved waterproof cast material is based largely on the Procel or GORE-TEX® materials that came before it, with enhanced benefits.

AquaCast: Helping Patients Heal for Over 3 Decades!

We are proud to say that, while we have made many improvements over the past 30 years, the waterproof cast material we offer today is much the same as the tried-and-true original. At long last, it’s possible for patients to bathe, shower, and swim while wearing a cast. Although not all injuries are suitable for waterproof cast application, those that are able to have them can count themselves very lucky that they were born in this era. If you were born at any other time in human history, your options would be much more limited! 

AquaCast® produces the highest quality waterproof cast material in the healthcare market, serving clients and their patients around the globe. To place an order for our products, contact us today.


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