What is a hip cast?

A hip cast is also called a hip spica cast. It corrects hip dysplasia and other conditions in infants and children. Adults often don't use hip casts. If an adult has hip dysplasia, surgery can fix the condition. The cast keeps a baby's or child's pelvis and thighbones still so the hip joint bones can move into the right position. It's also common for an infant to wear a Pavlik harness for certain conditions. The harness has straps and is not a cast. Your doctor will help you determine which device is best for your child's condition.

When is a hip cast used?

A hip spica cast helps your child immobilize a hip or broken bone. That way, it heals in the correct position. There are different models of spica casts. Some reach from the chest and to the knee or foot of one leg. Others cover your child's body from their chest to their knee or both knees.  Some may have bars between the legs to help stabilize your child's hips and legs. It all depends on your child's condition.

What to expect from a hip cast

Children often wear hip casts for six weeks up to three months, depending on their needs. Though it's bulky, a hip cast is necessary in many cases. You and your child will get used to it in a few days. A hip cast takes about an hour or two to apply under general anesthesia, so your child will be asleep while doctors fit the cast. It's a hard cast made of lightweight fiberglass. It's lined with soft material for comfort.

One important thing about a hip spica cast is the care it needs while your child wears it. Casts and cast openings vary. You'll need some time to figure out the best cleaning routine. Here are some tips to keep your child comfortable:

  • Keep the cast dry inside
  • Change diapers frequently
  • Check skin twice daily for irritation
  • Turn your child regularly for comfort
  • Reach under the cast's edges to keep it clean
  • Look for changes in the cast (cracks, loosening, etc.)
  • Elevate your child's head and shoulders when they're lying down

Common conditions requiring a hip cast

One of the most common reasons your child may need a hip cast is for hip dysplasia. Babies who are born with hip dysplasia risk hip dislocation. That's because the hip socket doesn't completely cover the rounded portion of the upper thighbone. The hip cast holds the hip in the socket so the bones and ligaments grow properly. 

Other reasons your child may need a hip cast include:

  • Thigh fractures
  • Femur fractures
  • Broken bone healing
  • Tendon release surgery
  • Hip/pelvis surgery/fractures
  • Developmental hip dysplasia

The treatment of hip dysplasia and other conditions is important for babies and even for older children. Healing with a hip cast may help your child avoid developing some bone conditions as an adult.

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