and careful observation, reporting, and recording of the patients condition will contribute markedly to an optimal and timely postoperative recovery course for the patient.
Patients on the orthopedic service are those who require treatment for fractures, deformities, and diseases or injuries of some part of the musculoskeletal system. Some patients will require surgery, immobilization, or both to correct their condition. The basic principles and concepts of care for the surgical patient will apply to orthopedic patients. The majority of patients not requiring surgical intervention will be managed by bed rest, immobilization, and rehabilitation. Many of the basic concepts of care of the medical patient are applicable for orthopedic patient care. In the military, the usual orthopedic patient is fairly young and in good general physical condition. For these patients, bed rest is prescribed only because his or her admitting condition limits other kinds of activity.
Rehabilitation is the ultimate goal when planning the orthopedic patients total management. Whether the patient requires surgical or conservative treatment, immobilization is often a part of the overall therapy. Immobilization may consist of applying casts or traction, or using equipment, such as orthopedic frames or Circ-O-Lectric beds. During the immobilization phase, simple basic patient care is extremely important. Such things as skin care, active-passive exercises, position changes in bed (as permitted), good nutrition, adequate fluid intake, regularity in elimination, and common basic hygiene not only contribute to the patients physical but also psychological well-being.
Lengthy periods of immobilization are emotionally stressful for patients, particularly those who are essentially healthy except for the limitations imposed by their condition. Prolonged inactivity contributes to boredom that is frequently manifested by various kinds of acting out behavior. Often, the unoccupied orthopedic patient experiences exaggerated levels of pain. Orthopedic pain is commonly described as sore and aching. Because this condition requires long periods of treatment and hospitalization, the wise management of pain is an important aspect of care. Constant pain, regardless of severity, is energy consuming. You should make every effort to assist the patient in conserving this energy. There are times when the patients pain can and should be relieved by medications. There are, however, numerous occasions when effective pain relief can be provided by basic patient care measures such as proper body alignment, change of position, use of heat or cold (if permitted by a physicians orders), back rubs and massages, and even simple conversation with the patient. Meaningful activity also has been found to help relieve pain. Whenever possible, a well-planned physical/occupational therapy regimen should be an integral part of the total rehabilitation plan.
As mentioned previously, immobilization is often a part of the overall therapy of the orthopedic patient; casting is the most common and well-known form of long-term immobilization. In some instances, a corpsman may be required to assist in applying a cast or be directed to apply or change a cast. In this section, we will discuss the method of applying a short and long-arm cast, and a short-leg cast. In applying any cast, the basic materials are the same: webril or cotton bunting, plaster of Paris, a bucket or basin of tepid water, a water source (tap water), protective linen, gloves, a working surface, a cast saw, and seating surfaces for the patient and the corpsman. Some specific types of casts may require additional material.
SHORT-ARM CAST. A short-arm cast extends from the metacarpal-phalangeal joints of the hand to just below the elbow joint. Depending on the location and type of fracture, the physician may order a specific position for the arm to be tasted. Generally, the wrist is in a neutral (straight) position with the fingers slightly flexed in the position of function.
Beginning at the wrist, apply three layers of webril. Then apply webril to the forearm and the hand, making sure that each layer overlaps the other by a third as shown in figure 5-4. Check for lumps or wrinkles and correct any by tearing the webril and smoothing.
The plaster of Paris is then dipped into the water for approximately 5 seconds. Gently squeeze to remove excess water, but do not wring out. Beginning at the wrist (fig. 5-4C) wrap the