“Break a Leg!” Why Having Your Cast Sawed Off Isn’t As Scary As It Sounds

In the bad old days, before the invention of the modern-day cast saw, I’m not exactly sure how an orthopedic doctor would remove a plaster cast from his patient’s newly-mended arm or leg. But I am sure it was probably not a pleasant experience.

Clearly, the former way of doing it left a lot to be desired!

Otherwise, why else would Homer H. Stryker, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Kalamazoo, Michigan, feel compelled to use his ingenuity and practical resourcefulness to come up with a “breakthrough” design for a better and more medically safe power tool for cutting off casts from patients’ limbs in 1943?

Let’s all just be thankful that he did.

In fact, let’s be thankful for all of those deep-thinking, problem-solving innovators and pioneers of modern medical technology.

Dr. Stryker is a great example.

Not only was he a medical doctor — orthopedic surgeon– he was also an inventor, a businessman, a school teacher and coach . . . even a barber and semi-professional baseball player!

Evidently, it took somebody with that kind of broad experience — beyond the sterile confines of medicine — to come up with a medical device capable of cutting through plaster casts … without cutting through patients.

And if his last name sounds familiar to you, it should.

He was the founder of that mighty biomedical technology company which bears his name: Stryker Corporation.

Cast saws were only one part of his rich, medical device legacy.

Anyway, … be glad it’s not 1940.

How to Remove a Cast (Without Removing a Limb)

These days, it’s pretty safe.

Here is an article describing just how safe.

If you want some visual proof of this, here are a couple of videos:

(You’ll have to go to YouTube to watch the first one. Just click on the link below.)


Then, there is this one.

You see? Mere child’s play.

Nothing to worry about.

After all, breaking your limb in the first place was the worst part of it!

The Buzz

Now, Stryker is not the only medical device company that makes handheld cast cutters. There are several others.

But — let the record show — Stryker was the first.

Or, at least,. . . they were the first to make a safe-to-operate cast saw that didn’t menace the patient with the threat of unplanned surgical incisions!

Of course, like all medical devices, they work great when they’re brand new.

But, given enough time, … they wear out, they break down, require maintenance and repairs (and cleaning). And, eventually, … they need replacing. “New and improved!”

So it goes in the world of medical technology.

We are the beneficiaries of such breakthroughs in plaster-and-fiberglass-blasting innovation.

And to think it all started in a tinkerer’s workshop in an industrious little city located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan.