Spica Cast: A Guide to Caring for Your Child

by Julia Munn Hale
Spica cast

As if having an infant or young child with an orthopedic condition (usually a broken thigh bone or hip disorder) requiring treatment isn’t enough, now you are told your child will need a spica cast!

A spica cast is a cast that extends from the child’s chest down to his or her toes. While it seems insurmountable to care for a child in a spica cast, many parents have walked this road before and have succeeded. You will too! Here are some tips to care for your child in a spica cast:

1. Children in spica casts need hugs too! First and foremost, remember that your child will need your love and gentleness more than he or she needs a spotless cast. 

2. Be prepared. Here is a list of helpful items for your home:

  • a special car seat, as your child will probably not fit in the regular car seat in the spica cast
  • a reclining wheelchair, special stroller or wagon
  • diapers in two sizes – one to fit inside and one to fit on the outside of the cast
  • sanitary napkins to fit inside the inner diaper for extra absorbency at night
  • a bedpan or urinal for older children
  • moleskin for rough edges of the cast and to keep the GORE-TEX liner in place
  • a hair dryer with a cool setting
  • a flashlight to use to see into the cast to check the skin for sore areas 

3. Check your child’s skin frequently, about four times a day

  • change your child’s position so he or she does not develop skin or pressure sores from being in one position for too long
  • check the toes for swelling, movement and discoloration 
  • use a flashlight to check the skin under the cast for sores or blisters

4. You can bathe your child in a spica cast but it has to be a sponge bath

  • use a lightly damp wash cloth to clean the skin under the cast
  • do not use powders or lotions as they can irritate the skin

5. Gravity is your friend. Keep the chest above the hips to help direct urine into the diaper and to keep it from pooling in the cast

6. Get out of the house. A change of scenery is good for everyone. Remember to keep your child restrained in any vehicle, high chair or stroller/wheelchair.

7. Eat your vegetables. Due to inactivity, constipation can become a problem. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet.

8. Fashion trends. Dresses and sweatpants work great. Underpants can be altered to have a Velcro closure for older children.

9. This too shall pass. Having a child in a spica cast is challenging. You are not alone. Make sure to call your doctor’s office with any questions or concerns.

For videos demonstrating the basics of caring for your child in a spica cast at home, click here.

Julia Munn Hale is a certified physician assistant in the Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Service at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Topics: Facebook Notes, Featured, Orthopedics, Pediatrics
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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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Hospital for Special Surgery
April 22, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Did you know that Electromyography (EMG) is a form of electrodiagnostic testing that is used to study nerve and muscle function? Dr. Joseph Feinberg, Physiatrist, says: “There are two parts to EMG testing: a nerve conduction study and a needle exam for muscle testing. Both may result in some discomfort, but are usually well tolerated without the need for medication beforehand. EMG testing usually takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes depending on the condition being tested and findings of the study.” For more information on EMG testing, visit http://www.hss.edu/conditions_emg-testing-a-patient-guide.asp.

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