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Plaster of Paris: the orthopaedic surgeon heritage

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Abstract

Plastering is one of the most ancient of the building handicrafts. Plaster is the common name for calcium sulphate hemi hydrate made by heating the mineral gypsum, the common name for sulphate of lime. In the tenth century the Arabs used liquid plaster in orthopaedic treatment. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, patients with fractures of the lower extremities—and often of the upper extremities as well—were treated in bed with restriction of all activity for many weeks until the fractures united. It was the practice of surgeons to dress wounds and fractures at frequent intervals. The bandages, pads, and splints were removed, the fractures manipulated, and the dressings reapplied. The search for simpler, less cumbersome methods of treatment led to the development of occlusive dressings, stiffened at first with starch and later with plaster of Paris. The ambulatory treatment of fractures was the direct result of these innovations. Two military surgeons, Antonius Mathijsen of the Netherlands, and Nikolai Ivanovitch Pirogov of Russia, were responsible for the introduction of the new plaster bandage technique. At the beginning of the twentieth century the technique was improved by Jean-François Calot, a French surgeon, who invented the hand manufacture of plaster bandage as a roll. During the twentieth century, walking cast and ambulation for fresh fractures were developed with plaster and pin incorporated in plaster; the open fracture care concept was introduced with plaster of Paris by Trueta before the external fixation.

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Hernigou, P. Plaster of Paris: the orthopaedic surgeon heritage. International Orthopaedics (SICOT) 40, 1767–1779 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00264-016-3179-2

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