Orthopedic Cast Splitter for Large Animals

At a Glance

​Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a veterinary cast splitter to break open medical casts, specifically designed for large animals.  Typical cast splitters are inefficient and difficult to operate alone.  The device developed here not only allows veterinarians to spread casts one handed, but also allows wider spreading abilities than any available design.

Several surgeons at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital now use the device exclusively.


An orthopedic cast is a shell routinely made of plaster or fiberglass that encases a limb to stabilize and hold broken bones in place for healing. Casts can be placed on various limbs of both humans and animals, having innumerable sizes and thickness. Once healing of a limb is confirmed, the cast is typically removed by perforation using a cast saw, designed to cut rigid materials while not harming soft tissue beneath the cast. However, in veterinary medicine, the limbs of large animals are quite robust, and the casts constructed in these instances are inherently more difficult to remove. Removal here can require a cast splitter. These devices are inserted into the fissure (created by the cast saw) and are manually spread apart, pursuant the ability of the operator to sufficiently open the device.

The foremost common example of an orthopedic cast splitter resembles a set of pliers. With the jaws of the “pliers” in a closed position, the teeth are inserted within the fissure of the cast, wherein the operator must spread the ends apart to crack the cast open. The teeth thusly pry open the cast with much exertion on the part of the operator. Over the years, some modifications have been made with respect to these common orthopedic cast splitters, in that instead of spreading the device apart, an operator can squeeze the handle together, again resulting in cast splitting. Both renditions of cast splitters are equally cumbersome to operate as the force required to crack the orthopedic cast are often great enough to require both hands of the operator. Furthermore, the cast can only be spread as wide as the handles are pivotally capable – leaving a more dexterous tool to be desired by the operator.

Fundamentally, a cast splitter capable of cracking an orthopedic cast, operable with a minimal amount of force, would be advantageous.


The orthopedic cast splitter developed here (Fig. 1 and 2) is designed to spread the two halves of a cast apart after it has been cut with a cast saw.  The teeth of the cast splitter (Fig. 3) are inserted into the fissure and spread the cast apart, single handedly, by squeezing the trigger of the device (Fig. 4 and 5).  The jaws of the cast splitter are able to open several inches in parallel, unlike any other cast splitter currently available.  Furthermore, the teeth of the device can be easily replaced when needed.

Figures 1 and 2. Images of different variations of the orthopedic cast splitter

Figure 3. Close up image of the jaws of the orthopedic cast splitter depicting the removable teeth

Figures 4 and 5. The teeth of the orthopedic cast splitter are placed inside the fissure; the device spreads the two halves apart


  • Teeth remain parallel as the device opens
  • Device can be operated with one hand
  • Device opens wider than any other traditional cast splitter
  • Optimal for very large casts, e.g. horses
  • Shortens the cast removal procedure
  • Less strenuous than other devices
  • Replaceable teeth


  • Splitting large animal casts in veterinary settings, e.g. horses, large exotic animals, etc.
  • Can be applicable to splitting casts in medical setting, e.g. human leg, etc.
Last Updated: April 2022

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