Over the past decade, polyester casting tape has become more recognized as a legitimate option to its traditional fiberglass counterpart. There are a number of studies which have compared these products in both controlled environments and real-world experiences. The results noted that both of these options can be equally effective, although there are some additional variables to consider.
The most important comparison between fiberglass and polyester tape is directed towards overall effectiveness. A study published in the Journal of the National Association of Orthopedic Technologists in 2002 recorded a number of variables related to overall effectiveness. The results noted that the differences in performance were negligible in most cases. There was the same level of material breakdowns and delaminations on weight-bearing surfaces with both fiberglass and polyester casting. Additionally, the activity level and comfort levels were similar as well.
The one noticeable difference was related to the development of cracks or splits. Fiberglass casts were much more likely to crack in the toe box area. This was attributed to the greater rigidity fiberglass casting offers. A polyester substrate is much more flexible, which allows it greater flexibility under heavier weights. This results in less cracking and splitting.
From a patient’s standpoint, there is only one area in which polyester tape may face difficulties. Due to the high use of fiberglass casting tape for decades, some people expect a more rigid cast. Even though polyester tape has proven to be extremely effective, the perception that greater rigidity is necessarily better will have to be overcome before fiberglass can be completely replaced.
Since the overall effectiveness of both fiberglass and polyester casting tape is fairly similar from a patient’s standpoint, the next area to focus on is the benefits gained by the physician. There are very few characteristics which are based on the material of the tape. Instead, the big differences come in the form of quality. Some manufactures provide an elite product, both fiberglass and polyester, whereas some do not.
When comparing fiberglass and polyester casting tape across brands, there are several telling variables to focus on. The first is referred to as formation or the weight bearing timeframe. Quality casting should be able to bear weight within 20-30 minutes. The ease of application should also be considered. Utilizing water activated resin; physicians should be able to dictate how quickly the casting tape hardens. This not only provides control over the setting time, but also minimizes the patient’s discomfort.