Key Points About Hip Casts

  • A hip cast is used to prevent hip and leg movement in infants or young children who have hip dysplasia, hip fractures, or other orthopedic conditions.
  • Your child will not be able to stand, walk, or bear weight while wearing a hip cast.
  • Risks associated with a hip cast include compartment syndrome, infection, blisters or sores under the skin, muscle atrophy, burns from the cast drying process.
  • Your child will be put to sleep with general anesthesia while the cast is being fitted with a fiberglass shell.
  • Your child will wear the cast between six weeks and three months. Follow the doctor’s instructions to ensure your child stays as comfortable as possible while wearing the cast.
A hip cast, also known as a hip spica cast or body cast, is used to correct hip dysplasia in infants and children. The cast will keep a child’s hip and pelvis in place so the hip bones can move into the right position. There are several different models of hip casts. Models can reach from the knee to the chest, from the foot to the knee or from the chest to the knee(s). Hip issues in adults will be fixed with surgery. Adults do not typically wear a hip cast. 

Do I Need a Hip Cast?

Hip casts are used on infants or children to correct issues in the following cases:

  • Hip dysplasia in infants. Infants born with hip dysplasia are at risk of experiencing a hip dislocation. A hip cast will hold the hip in the socket to enable the ligaments to grow properly.
  • Thigh or femur fractures in young children.
  • Tendon release surgery.
  • Broken bone healing.
  • Previous hip or pelvis surgery in young children.

Treating infants and young children, hip dysplasia, and other conditions with hip casts help prevent more severe bone conditions as they age.

Risks Associated with Wearing a Hip Cast

Complications that can occur while wearing a hip cast include:

  • An allergic reaction could lead to itching, swelling, and redness.
  • Compartment syndrome can lead to leg pain, numbness, and weakness caused by swelling under the cast.
  • Blisters or sores may form on the skin if the cast is too tight.
  • Infection under the cast that can cause pain, swelling, or fever.
  • Joint stiffness from the limited movement while wearing a cast.
  • Muscle atrophy.
  • Burns from the cast drying process.

Preparing for a Hip Cast

Your child's doctor will require a health exam before surgery to ensure your child is in good overall health before surgery. If your child has a fever or infection, the surgery may need to be postponed.

Follow the doctor's instructions on what to do before surgery. Guidelines include:

  • Use a special skin cleanser on the skin to reduce the number of germs on the skin.
  • Follow the feeding schedule your doctor gives you. Typically, your child should not eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery. 

What to Expect When Getting a Hip Cast

Your child will be given general anesthesia to put them to sleep while your doctor is putting the hip cast on.

Your doctor will apply a hard cast made of fiberglass to the affected area. The cast is lined with a soft, cushioning padding for comfort. 

The process will take approximately one to two hours. 

Duration of Wearing a Hip Casts

A hip cast will typically be worn from six weeks to three months. 

Follow your doctor’s instructions on how to care for the cast while your child is wearing it. Guidelines to help keep your child comfortable include:

  • Avoid getting the cast wet inside.
  • Change your child’s diaper frequently.
  • Closely monitor your child’s skin for irritation.
  • Move your child regularly for comfort.
  • Clean under the cast’s edges.
  • Monitor your cast for cracks, loosening, etc.
  • Elevate your child’s head and shoulders when they are lying down. 

Your child’s limb may seem smaller than before, and his or her skin may be slightly discolored or flaky when the cast comes off. These issues are temporary and will return to normal quickly.

Your doctor may recommend your child wear a brace after the cast comes off.