Treatments and tests

Caring for your broken limb before surgery


If you have a broken bone (wrist, arm, ankle or leg) you may need to wait until swelling has gone down before having surgery. This will minimise any complications during and after the procedure.

If surgeons operate on a swollen limb they may have difficulty closing the wound after surgery.

Tips to reduce swelling

  • Elevate the broken limb to heart level or as high as comfortably possible. Pillows can be used to achieve this.
  • Apply ice to the fractured area for 15 to 20 minutes, using an ice pack, bag of peas or a zip lock plastic bag with ice. Never apply ice directly to the skin, always wrap it in a towel or a pillowcase. It is important to take regular breaks in-between applying ice to avoid tissue damage.
  • Take pain killers as directed by your doctor.
  • Minimise smoking or quit smoking if able to do so.

Read more on caring for your plaster cast.


Seek medical advice if you experience increased pain, swelling, numbness and tingling or changes in sensation.

Where to get help


Royal Perth Hospital

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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